Sunday, March 27th, 2005
The Sky Is Falling
Odd as it may sound, one of my best SxSW musical discoveries didn’t come from seeing a band play. When doing some last-minute showcase browsing before heading to Austin last week, I came across The Oktober People, a four-piece from Albequerque, New Mexico. Liking the samples I heard from the SxSW guide, I added them to my “maybe” list but didn’t end up catching them as they were on the same time as Dirty On Purpose. However, when I went to catch Experimental Aircraft’s day show on Friday, the label sponsoring the show was giving out a whack of free CDs, The Oktober People’s self-titled album amongst them. Since the name seemed familiar, though I don’t remember what I liked about them, I grabbed a copy and went on my way.
Now let’s be honest – usually when someone hands you a free CD, the odds of it actually impressing are pretty slim. So when I finally popped it into my CD player at the airport on Sunday, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself very impressed with what I was hearing. Musically, their serpentine, echoed guitar lines and loping bass melodies recall Mogwai and Explosions In The Sky, and while the loud-quiet dynamic is present, it’s not the punchline. There’s also some Verve-like atmospherics enevloping everything and many of the songs have vocals that keep them fairly grounded in more conventional song structures rather than multi-movement compositions (though some do approach epic-length). The quality of those vocals – somewhat frail and spidery, like Deserters Songs-era Mercury Rev – work perfectly with the music. There’s nothing blazingly original in the ingredients that The Oktober People work with, but the end result is quite stunning nonetheless. If you couldn’t tell, I’m quite taken with their work.
I don’t regret my decision to go see Dirty On Purpose last Thursday night at all, but I do wish I’d somehow been able to have been in two places at once. Since The Oktober People seem to rarely tour outside their native Southwest, so the odds of them finding their way up here by any means other than getting horribly horribly lost are pretty slim… but at least I’ve got the record. You can sample some of their self-titled debut at the band’s MySpace page, or start off with this one (from their own website):
Am I the only one who had no idea that The Decemberists had a Purevolume page that includes a handful of mp3 rarities for free download? So everyone who’s been writing to me to get their “Human Behaviour” cover, go there instead. And while you’re waiting for the files to transfer, check out these interviews with Colin Meloy at Seattle Weekly wherein they play jukebox (via TMFTML) and The New York Daily News (via LHB).
The Guardian also has this piece on SxSW and what it means for UK bands looking to make it on this side of the Atlantic.
np – Guided By Voices / Half Smiles Of The Decomposed