October, Unstable Phenomenon

[Voodoo Down Records]

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Blame it on his taste in T-shirts (the Resident Advisor page in my research browser shows him repping Pere Ubu and Joy Division) or the dark implications of his production moniker, but October never seems quite as off-kilter as one might expect. And yet his tunes are genuinely, if subtly, oblique, standing out in a sea of samey, all-too-tasteful UK house. In interviews, Julian Smith has pointed to dub as an important influence, and the longtime Bristolian’s dance-music roots are in jungle. On record, his catholic listening habits come across not through overtures to other genres but rather a unique sense of spaciousness, the threatened-but-withheld possibility that the sky might crack open. Verging on unpredictable but coherent enough to find a place in DJ sets, Unstable Phenomenon is another solid entry in October’s discography.

October, “Unstable Phenomenon” (Excerpt)

The first cut’s advertised instability is cached across “Unstable Phenomenon”‘s various elements. A weary brass fanfare undulates under the track’s rippling surface like a battered flag, equal parts dub and heat-sick disco, while the lopsided beat feeds dancers slack only to yank back on the leash lest you forget who’s in control. “Entropy Ends” is crowded to surreal capacity, a gooey amalgamation of UK styles rendered in October’s image. Its chirruping vocals might be a friendly parody of the way producers turn to chopped-up samples for a quick hit of human warmth, but they could also just be the product of being stoned in the studio and/or listening to a lot of Sensate Focus. Whatever the case, the results are both interesting, unsettling, and ambiguously successful, implying that October’s cleverness lies in how he hides his tracks’ damage, letting their odd choices craftily sneak up on the listener over time. Joey Anderson’s “Unstable Phenomenon” remix takes a more obvious route to awesome effect. Reducing the original down to its ambient essence, he deploys a scabby, relentless drum machine over the top and then mostly stands back, arms folded like a boss. The brittle foreground affords him enough wiggle room to fit in DJ Sprinkles-esque atonal piano rolls, establishing a vibe that’s midway between weirdo deep house and pawn-shop drum machine jam. Voodoo Down, who I’m assuming are the same guys behind the Brooklyn label that put this out, turn up for a remix of “Entropy Ends.” It’s less audacious than Anderson’s, remaking the wooly original into a sleeker shape and downplaying the anxiety; but by the end they’ve also given into the prevailing atmosphere, chucking in an arpeggio that dances like a plastic Halloween skeleton on an elastic string.

uli  on April 16, 2013 at 10:42 AM

October is one of my absolute favorites at the moment! His latest release with John Osborn is one of the best EPs I’ve heard in a long time!


Little White Earbuds April Charts 2013 | Little White Earbuds  on May 3, 2013 at 1:03 AM

[…] Minds]Steve Kerr 01. Ashley Paul, “You’re a Feeling” [R.E.L. Records] 02. October, “Unstable Phenomenon” (Joey Anderson Remix) [Voodoo Down Records] 03. Elgato, “We Dream Electric” [Elgato] 04. MGUN, […]

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