Review Summary: The Octopus Project gets infinitely better at songwriting, yet haven't quite crafted an infinitely better album.
The Octopus Project have always been a band you could rely on to provide some unique and interesting sounds. By combining a plethora of analog and electronic instruments (they integrate a theremin quite nicely) the Austin, TX quintet specialized in slow burning instrumental synth-pop/rock where layers of sounds build upon each other into loud crescendos or to establish the band’s unique psychedelic feel. However, with the significantly increased presence of vocals and a more focused, concise approach to songwriting, Fever Forms makes for the bands most poppy and exciting record to date, yet hurt by a less impressive second half.
“The Falls” opens the record with a pounding bassline and interweaving guitar lines giving way to the track’s simple, yet effective vocal hook. The sound here is incredibly dense with excellent production, and while the album’s opener shows off the band’s stylistic shift towards a poppier sound, there is still a lot to digest. The following track, “Pyramid Kosmos”, is a return to an instrumental jam-fest of the band's past, but the addition and layering of sounds throughout the track’s runtime make perfect sense in terms of songwriting. “Pyramid Kosmos” is an excellent example of The Octopus Project showing off a greater sense of focus while incorporating techniques of old and new.
“Whitby” and the album’s closer “Sharpteeth” are the most overtly “pop” tunes here, providing interesting electronics and guitar melodies under excellent vocal hooks. However, the latter half of the album seems to lose sight of the focused songwriting prowess that makes the first half so effective, not to mention being considerably less exciting. Tracks “Choi Sighs” and “Deep Spice” seem to float on by with useless background mumblings or monotonous electronics – tracks seemingly without a real conclusion or point.
Fever Forms shows the band heading in a much more focused and fun direction in the future yet the weaker second half gives off the impression that the band is in a transitional period. The Octopus Project trimmed the fat from previous songwriting habits, yet hasn't quite perfected this new approach. With so many instruments and interesting sounds and an excellent start to the album, Fever Forms is quite a worthwhile listen, but a newfound focus in crafting a consistent album would be very welcome in addition to the more effective songwriting.