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Album Review: Noble Octopus | Noble Octopus


Noble Octopus | Noble OctopusThe Noble Octopus
The Noble Octopus
The Noble Octopus was started by Eric Rohn and friends at Grinnell College before moving to Iowa City. With the emphasis on clean guitar sounds and low-key vocals they recall the softer side of Yo La Tengo. The Steve Reich-esque looped guitar piece “Droplets and Isolations” immediately had me on their side. The kalimba and woodblock that underline the interlocking guitar parts on “Satellites” give it a nice music-box vibe. Erick Rohn sings “Soft drifting sounds/bounce off the quiet ice” which is probably a better review of this album than the one you’re reading right now.
“One Room Passing Book” is just Eric’s voice and guitars, and reminds me a lot of Nick Drake. Rohn’s voice is a completely different instrument than Drake’s, though, with a Neil Young waver and pure tone, in contrast to Drake’s woolly slurring. The songs themselves are nicely constructed and arranged, with a lot of intricate ensemble playing to support them without sounding wanky or overdone. The weakest link on the album is the singing. It can be perfect for the material, as in the later verses of “Sound Of Cycling,” but in the first few lines of the same song Rohn sounds awkward. It’s not that it’s bad, but it could be better, and if Eric keeps at it, no doubt it will.
The Noble Octopus is odd that way. Part of the considerable charm of the music is that it’s tentative, reticent and inwardly focused. You feel like you’re overhearing it more than you’re hearing it. This can occasionally be too much, and seem awkward and lacking confidence. Ultimately, though these are really good songs, well thought out and executed. All the Noble Octopus needs is a bit more confidence and fluency in presentation.

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