After releasing 2007's Hello, Avalanche, an engaging album that netted praise from Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Wired, Pitchfork, Stereogum and a zillion blogs, The Octopus Project settled into a relentless touring schedule that took the band to nine countries and a handful of major music festivals. As the band members added thousands of miles to their odometer, long drives soundtracked by minimal classic composers Terry Riley and Steve Reich led to thoughts about how to expand the scope of their own endeavors. Already known for concise blasts of experimental pop and energetic stage shows, The Octopus Project wanted to create a deeper sound, a more enveloping experience.
As an early experiment, the band scored original music to a series of short, psychedelic films from the previous century and performed the sold-out set in a favorite Austin arthouse theater. The overwhelmingly successful shows prompted invitations for repeat performances and talk of taking the production on the road. But the band was still in search of something bigger. They wanted to completely surround the audience with sound and vision – total immersion.
In late 2009, the band took some time off from touring to start writing new material and tinkering with electronics, and Hexadecagon began to take shape. The band members quickly realized that in order to achieve their creative vision, they would need more than the standard two-channel stereo audio and a single projection, but the equipment didn't exist, so they built it. Using custom electronics (The Bend Matrix) and pushing existing software (Ableton Live, VDMX, OSCulator) to its limits, the band spent the next three months writing songs specifically for an eight-channel surround sound system. Eight speakers would be arranged in a circle around the audience, with the audience surrounding the band at the center. Overhead, the music would be accompanied by eight synchronized video projections designed by Austin digital artist Wiley Wiggins.
The Octopus Project finally performed Hexadecagon twice to over-capacity crowds during SXSW 2010. The reception was emphatically positive. Paste Magazine said of the show, “if there’s a such thing as a happiness seizure, be prepared to have one,” while The Austin American Statesman described the event as, “the trippiest, most elaborate thing the Octopus Project have ever done, and that's a very tall order.” USA Today ranked the performance one of its top five shows of SXSW.
Buzzing from the performance, the band dove head-first into putting the songs to tape. After two months of recording in their home studio, the band members took everything up to Dallas to finish up and mix down with John Congleton (St. Vincent, Explosions In the Sky, Clinic, The Walkmen), who then blew up the sound environment the band had created into a high-definition, ultra-widescreen sonic universe. The music is written to work in layers - originally for an audio canvas of eight-channels, but here re-arranged and re-orchestrated to create an engrossing experience for anyone with a pair of speakers (or headphones, ideally).
Hexadecagon, more than any previous release by The Octopus Project, feels like a true album in the classic sense. It's not so much eight distinct songs as one epic suite with mood swings. Peek-A-Boo Records is thrilled to release Hexadecagon on CD, 2xLP and digital formats on October 26, 2010.