Pink Octopus — SexBeef and the Pink Octopus
(Roadies Delight Records no#, 2013, DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2015-04-26Seattle’s Pink Octopus is primarily the venue for the compositions of Jonathan Louis Huffman, with vocal parts devised by Matthew Swartz (who has a band called SexBeef, hence the album title). At the time of this recording, other contributors included drummer Ian McCarley, who is still with the band, and bassist Erik Smith, who only plays on a couple of tracks, while Huffman and Swartz take care of the low end on the others. (The working band now features Luke Wyman on bass and Michael Porenta on saxophone, and since Swartz lives in LA, Pink Octopus performs as an instrumental unit.) Stylistically, they have qualities in common with contemporary bands like Minus the Bear, The Mercury Tree, and the more proggy side of Umphrey’s McGee: instrumentally challenging rock with busy guitar parts being a defining feature. Instead of playing chords or simple riffs behind the vocal parts, Huffman is often playing really tricky patterns that imply the chords and fit together with the bass parts. At times the sound borders on fusion, which is of course emphasized in the band’s instrumental passages. (It’s also notable that when the band performs live without the vocals, the sound is full and doesn’t seem at all to be lacking anything.) Other factors that come into play are the occasional use of keyboards and electronics. Pink Octopus manages the trick of being complex enough to appeal to prog rock audiences but rocking enough for more mainstream (“indie rock”) listeners as well. Engineering is by Huffman himself — he runs a recording studio in Seattle as well — and is superb, the sound crisp and clean even at the times when there’s a lot going on. This is a band worth watching — their next effort is sure to be even better, if their live shows are any indication.
Related artist(s): Pink Octopus
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