These are sounds designed to engulf the night. A deep-set 4/4 tabernacle of vintage house that strikes off passing streetlights on an aimless twilight drive through metropolis outskirts. The last few beats recapped on a Sunday morning comedown; smudged neon purple, some random stranger’s sweat-covered torso. The angle shifts, but textures remain the same; the peak point on a tracklist that spurs endorphins, pushing the thresholds of an evening run across a private urban racetrack, high-rise buildings blur to the sticky breaths that soak Between Two Selves, a nocturnal discourse on the bullish anthems of an underground disco.
Octo Octa is Michael Bouldry-Morrison, a mainstay on Amanda Brown’s 100% Silk roster and a past collaborator on her LA Vampires project. The Brooklyn-based producer, renowned for his treacle-thick 90s house production, has talked openly about bearing no intention of distracting himself with genre classification; what matters most to him is how he gets people moving, how he gets people feeling excited about his tunes, regardless of whether beats are being burnt through the speakers of a micro-club in East Berlin or slamming against a wave of intoxicated rave darlings at the Red Bull Music Academy. Using his own bounce inclination as a yard stick for measuring his latest jams, he refers to them as straight-up “dance music,” for all intents and purposes. On Between Two Selves, his third full-length release, he bolsters that sense of urgency in making bodies writhe; the album is laced with luscious pump, a force flecked with R&B-pressed vocal samples that glaze out like some haunted mirage, and it’s enormous fun… in moderation.
Adherence to a strict style throughout the course of a record is not always problematic; it can demonstrate consistency and a stylistic reach that often betters efforts based on obnoxious experimentalism or misguided trope fondling. And although Between does lend itself to a number of nocturnal scenarios — I can’t emphasize that enough; it’s purposefully built to be played after sundown — as a full-length, these cuts can start to grow rather heavy, particularly by the time “Work Me” rears its clunky gate. What’s interesting, though, is that critics tend to be tuning out by the second half, because they’re at the tail end of an album that demands unrequited stamina — Octa’s production embodies a thick and sumptuous aesthetic that’s tough to digest during a 50-minute onslaught.
It’s been suggested that the album collapses under its own weight, that its second section is void of anything as seductive or kinetic as the opening tracks. But such sentiments discount the impending “Fear,” which is a purely belting closer: with cutting percussion and a murky bass line, it’s a terrifying reprise to the darker aspects of the record, as pounding metallic beats collectively unfurl from a stream of ambient hiss and rumbling thunder. The closing chapter has its moments, then, but the bulk of each track does start to mount on Octa’s stylistic preferences. That was seemingly anticipated, and dealt with, by releasing these monochromatic anthems on a double-set vinyl edition. Break it down into a sensible sitting, play it away from direct sunlight, and just try maintaining composure, just try standing still — for if nothing else, Between Two Selves is an exciting indication of where Bouldry-Morrison and 100% Silk are at right now.