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The Octopus Project w/ Benjamin Wesley
September 21, 2012 @ 8:00 pm - 2:00 am
THE OCTOPUS PROJECT
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.
All good art tells a story. The tale might not be a very pleasant one, but it keeps our attention throughout every twist, turn, and tumble of the plot. Thus, what people quickly discover about the life and music of Benjamin Wesley is that this singer-songwriter has a seemingly unending supply of narratives to share, and he does so with style and panache.
As anyone who’s ever seen Wesley put on one his celebrated one-man shows around the greater Houston, TX area can attest, the guy is extremely talented. Not many of us would be able to manage both an electric guitar and bass guitar strung about our necks while also manipulating the various synths, pads, and processors required to provide the beats, loops, and noises that give his songs such character. What makes this music so special is that you gain the sense – whether you’re watching a live set or listening to his music over your headphones – that he’s in the midst of a conversation with you, and you alone.
Throughout it all, Wesley has managed to match the passion of the stories told with the quality of the music. Buzzing guitar licks dance with bubbling synth melodies while strong beats frolic with sturdy bass rumbles and quirky embellishments of electronic noises. At the root of all these various sonic surprises is a hard kernel of honest pop goodness, tempered with timeless folk sensibilities – there’s no point in the music sounding fancy, stylish, and accomplished if it isn’t accessible and relatable.
Benjamin Wesley isn’t just another new-school folk singer who’s learned how to play a few interesting chord progressions while managing to teach himself a bit about modern technology to give himself a visual edge. This is a man proud of both his German heritage and his hometown of Houston, TX, and he’s experienced his own fair share of loss, anguish, and disappointment. Yet, he’s managed to come out on the other side – a little older and a little wiser, as the cliché goes – with stories that he wants to tell and music that he’s excited to share with others. And while he might be singing to a crowd of people at a show, he’s really just sitting there with you, talking with an old friend over a couple of drinks. Enjoy.