The Algorithm – Octopus4 (Review)

The Algorithm - Octopus4
I first listened to The Algorithm (project of French producer Rémi Gallego) around a year ago, when Daniel P. Carter played Handshake during the middle of the day as part of Radio 1’s Rock Week. I remember Carter describing it beforehand as a crazy piece of crossover music, or something along those lines. I can’t remember the exact words he used but he was pretty much spot on with however he described it. Sounding like the insane lovechild of Genghis Tron and Fuck Buttons Handshake had me hooked, and I picked up Polymorphic Code on vinyl a few days later as a result. I span it the other day in anticipation of Octopus4, and it still perplexes me as much as it amazes me. Records which are as absorbing on as many levels as that one come around rarely, so it’s quite the achievement that Gallego, now accompanied by drummer Mike Malyan (formerly of Monuments), has managed to deliver such a record again with The Algorithm’s second full-length Octopus4, one which is as brilliant as it is bizarre.

Over the past few weeks or so I’ve been rewatching hit sci-fi TV series Fringe on Netflix(this is going somewhere) and there was an episode I watched recently which revolved around a computer virus which melted brains using a montage of pictures. I mention this because Octopus4 is named after a fictitious computer virus which is infectious in a completely different way. Sure, if you listen to it loud enough and for long enough it could prove detrimental to your health, but in the same way that the Fringe virus made use of disjointed images The Algorithm make use of a plethora of sounds to similar effect, with a better outcome for all involved.

Octopus4 sees The Algorithm take an approach which is less djent and more dance orientated. It means that his second record is a more controlled, ‘calmer’ affair which channels the energy of past works elsewhere. Octopus4 is a beast of a different nature, a swirling, scintillating mass of warm noise, but it often lacks the bite that Polymorphic Code had. Gallego has expanded his sound and honed it, and the record sounds more confident and focused – which may sound odd considering how comfortable Polymorphic Code seemed in its own insanity. Octopus4 keeps that balance between heavy and soft, electronic and metal throughout, and no-one else in music blends the two like Gallego does –  at times the result is stunning, and at others it’s slightly underwhelming, but however hard it hits it always does, and for the most part Octopus4 is enthralling as a result, a dizzying concoction of a number of styles, encompassing drum n’ bass (Recovery Fail), post-rock (Autorun), mathcore (Will_Smith), metal (ピタゴラスPYTHAGORAS), rap (Un Dernier Combat) and whatever genre the soundtracks of 90’s arcade games fall into (Every Track). It’s intricate and complex, pulled off brilliantly on almost all fronts; a dazzling array of numerous sounds, from the funk of Discovery to the crushing chugs of the title track Gallego has thrown everything in his arsenal into the mix, and it’s quite the spectacle. Opening track Autorun begins surprisingly subtle and to namedrop Fuck Buttons again it builds similarly, although reaches heights the British duo rarely aspire to. Layers are gradually added as the song slowly gathers pace and momentum, reeling a listener in, dense with anticipation as it pulsates, swelling, eventually shifting in a second to something much more, twice as satisfying. There’s djent present, but it’s less obvious, the guitars aren’t as thick, and these heavier sections don’t last as long, with Gallego favouring the spacey, sprawling soundscapes as opposed to the savage. The second half of Octopus4 sees them feature more often, and as a result the final seven songs or so are much darker and brooding, as is the case with the monolithic ピタゴラスPYTHAGORAS, which is one of the records best, staggering once it lets itself go. Following track Synthesiz3r is more dubstep based as lazers fly before a brief respite which unfolds to intermittent piercing synths, coming back slowly through a standard dubstep build-up to a drop which is anything but, making use of roaring screams which kick off a thundering final minute with soaring guitars towards the end. Final track Octopus4 is another highlight, ridiculously good once it reaches its peak, towering as blast beats crash and synths intersect each other during a chaotic few minutes which are some of the records heaviest. The track is massive in scope, as are the majority, and it sees the record on a high – although the jazzy five-minute outro of sorts could be considered unnecessary.At its best Octopus4 is untouchable; there’s nothing else like it, and even if there was it’s doubtful it would sound this good. The Algorithm are in a field of their own, and they thrive on a sound that no-one else really delivers. Gallego will undoubtedly take a lot of the plaudits for this sound, but credit also has to go to Malyan, as his performance is exceptional throughout, complementing the craziness of Gallego’s electronic creations perfectly, and together the two form quite the unit.

Despite all of its positives Octopus4 isn’t perfect, and although I’m not normally one to complain about a records length in this case less could be considered more. I feel that a few of the tracks on Octopus4 could be dropped without lessening the experience (Loading, Discovery), and although the twelve tracks featured toy with a number of genres the end result is somehow slightly repetitive, albeit  deliciously unique as a whole, dragging towards the end. Polymorphic Code suffered similarly as songs merged together, but it’s more noticeable here, perhaps because of the records more streamlined, reserved nature – if reserved is the right word. The Algorithm undoubtedly play to their strengths, but the same strengths that define this record are the same that defined their last, and the same issues still prevail. Granted, that’ll only be a problem depending on your own preference and whether you can look past it, but something’s still holding The Algorithm back, or so it would seem.

At the end of the day, you can read as many reviews of Octopus4 as you want, but very few (if any) will really do it justice – I know this one hasn’t. It’s a record that needs to be heard to be believed, and even then you might struggle to really grasp it. All being said, you won’t hear another record this year which will sound anything like Octopus4 and that’s ultimately what sells it. It’s more club orientated but still pulsates with a darker, heavy energy, and although it isn’t as manic as The Algorithm’s first it’s definitely their best to date, trying a few new things and pulling them off alongside slicker production which benefits it immensely. Enjoy it, because Octopus4 merits nothing less.

Rating: 8/10
Listen to: Will_Smith / Damage Points / Octopus4

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