Album Review: My Octopus Mind – ‘Maladyne Cave’

My Octopus Mind have created a world with a clear set of feeling and colours. And while pretty and loose, its confusingly dense, as oppressive as it is free and open…”

I’m sat in the sun taking notes on the tracks that make up Maladyne Cave, the warmth and the light glow at odds with the album that solely exists in a red morning glare. My Octopus Mind have reached out for an album that feeds on loose fears and half warnings, where optimism comes not from light creeping in but from moments where dark gets forgotten. It’s not heavy, but weighted, with an uneasy lean that pitches towards regret and mournful.

This trip of post/folk/prog rock, it slides, sweeps and swoons in a no constraint play. Something’s impending, inside or out with the inside impeding the other. There’s a feeling of withdrawn connections, a sprawl of self conscious what ifs.

The sites of the surest grounds of the album are mapped out in the opening tracks; ‘PinP’ moves in swathes of gentle and frantic with dissonant ashes strewn through. Violins tack the breeze of acoustic guitars in soft slides and accents while distant hit drums scrape and rush on rolled snares. Clean runs on hats, ride cymbals, soft splashes, they’re the light in the weight of the noise. And this is bright as we get. We meander through dimly lit hazes, or run with the lashes of sound that shift between breathing easy and breathless. Soft-slide strings turn to jagged, the breath of a tremolo bow and the husk of pressed hair, they all add to the sinister buildups. At their thickest, we’re soundscape and film score. At their quickest, we’re panicked and pushed. We hear theme, variation and new incarnations of half fixed ideas and we bleed through the track just like treacle.

As ‘PinP‘ winds down to its outgoing sounds ‘Anundena’ picks up on the half light. The loose range of folk meets with sung eastern wordplay that shifts with the lilt and shapes of their sounds. There’s the same mass of lift and retreat variations but here the aim’s cleaner, precise. Where ‘PinP‘ pitched for film score, ‘Anundena‘ hits full cinematic. And it’s strange, I don’t notice the change, until I catch myself caught in a range of thick textures and look back to see how I got here. The song seems to shift underneath me, I’m pulled in its chosen direction.

These songs act like templates, they’re the width and the breadth of the most pleasing parts in which we have space to explore.

The arrangements of double bass, violin, guitars and vocals, they’re the backdrop and guts to the album. They move sharp and loose or breathe heavy, against and in step with each other. Clear and cool voices slide unrushed and fuss free, they’re word maker, form giver and instrument. When the main vocal’s hitched to a sweet boy/girl pairing, they move intertwined and add ease. There’s a vocal led break in ‘Bucking Fecuz’ that spins on its heal ’til it’s dizzy; In a moment of light and a section of clarity, everything breaks down in unison. All things stringed pluck in time and those  textures stretch thin, and a cascade of words rattle round to themselves in a rhythm that slowly spreads outward. This crack in the dark is a gift, it’s a chink of the sun coming through. As the album keeps moving I want more of these moments to cut through the fog rolling over.

Away from those templates are tracks that lurch outwards with ranging degrees of success. Best among them is ‘Welder’, where the main guts get ditched for a slow garage fuzz. Bent guitar chords take lead and the vocals are frayed, even the drums that relied on their clean hit precision get glitched out and shook up distorted. It feels good to be thrown way off track. In an album where 6-8 minutes is normal, I’m renewed by the brief rattle holler. It’s an energy spike where it’s needed, I’m refreshed by the singular force that separates the song from album.   

‘Need No Other Lovin’ doubles down on the darkness, where drones are the basis for half chanted vocals, but for all of the space there’s no let up. We reverb our way through a desolate plane where echoes of instruments live in their shadows and never formed words cast their syllables out in a strangely unedifying way. The room to explore has been made yet the space is unused and left empty. This could be an interlude that acts like a bind or a break between sections but somehow it settles on neither. ‘Mocha Narwhal’ plays out like it’s opposite; the brute angst of ‘Welder‘ meets a Beefheart fueled workout that strikes an impenetrable clunk; over worked, overfilled, over length.  

Maybe those templates exist for a reason. ‘Elska’ that lives at the albums half way mark is the best mix of all the above. It’s the best flex of structure, the best encapsulation of all that exists in an album that feels like it needs to expand but it’s uniform won’t let it stretch. The sweet mournful pretty, that knack for a soundscape, those two sets of vocals that wrap around each other and the soft hints at slabs of aggression… They’re all sat compacted and neatly tied in, they all sound like natural progressions.

My Octopus Mind have created a world with a clear set of feeling and colours. And while pretty and loose, its confusingly dense, as oppressive as it is free and open. I began this outside in the sunlight and warmth, it got typed up inside with the songs on repeat. While I’m glad to have lived in the textures they shaped, I am glad to have light to get back to.

MY OCTOPUS MIND – ‘MALADYNE CAVE’ is out now, catch news on their website and Spotify.

Catch my pick of these tracks on the evergrowing playlist of Rats on Run Radio.