If anyone can make cookie-cutter techno, then improvisation is the route back to heart and soul. And there are few people as good at making dense, bass-heavy improvised dance music as Detroit’s Octave One.
I mean, yes, it’s a little weird that any of us would get overly eloquent or snobby writing about dance music. I would hope your test is the same as my test – does piping a track make you start doing an embarrassing little jig at your desk? (Boy, am I glad my office is on street level and equipped with giant, aquarium-style windows.)
Octave One stopped by Resident Advisor recently, with a table bestrewn with gear – that thickened-up gravy of sound. Yes, that’s our own MeeBlip (SE edition, modded with an extra-big knob) on the bass stabs at the beginning. And there’s tons of KORG and other gear in there, as well. There’s a nice balance of advance preparation with rich live-played synth lines and mixing and filtering. It means they’ve done enough that they can lay down a groove, but they also can feel transitions, structure – actually say something in the moment. They’re also clever in keeping everything accessible, rather than doing something overly cerebral. Sonically, everything is defined (clever groove can help), but there’s also a healthy amount of dirt and warmth.
There’s funk and soul in this music, too, ingredients that perhaps more producers would do well to genuinely understand.
Co-founders Lenny and Lawrence Burden have been at this for about a decade and a half, and it shows. But what impresses me is that they aren’t just riding off the success of some tracks: they’re proving their chops in every single show, whether you’ve heard of them or not. (And yes, you might recognize tracks like Black Water (with vocals by Ann Saunderson) – but it really doesn’t matter.)
For still more improvisation, don’t miss their Boiler Room Moscow live set from last year:
There, they debuted the rich, delicious track “Afterglow”:
It’s fun to watch on the Internet, but I know I hope I get lucky and see them in person. Tour dates through Europe before they wrap up in New York:
31.07.2015 – Moon Beach Festival, Trogir, Croatia
07.08.2015 – Dreambeach Festival, Almeria, Spain
30.08.2015 – Krankbrother day and Night, London
06.09.2015 – Vagabundos, Space, Ibiza
18.09.2015 – Bacchanale Festival, Vieux Port, Montreal
19.09.2015 – Stage One festival, TBA, New York
Give them a visit:
Photo, top: Marie Staggat.