DATE BREAKDOWN: Spectra – “Octopus”

File Under: Alternative

Last Monday night I did my usual search method on Bandcamp to secure the next album to go on a blind date with my ears. I scrolled through locations and clicked on Canada, followed by Newest Arrivals. Then I scrolled until I came across the cover art for Spectra’s Octopus: a rather cool drawing of, well, an octopus. I named my price, downloaded the album and went to bed. Tuesday afternoon I hit play and the week began.

I was immediately immersed in “Cracked, Broken and Lost,” a lovely, calming song with a strong contrast lyrically. Ava’s voice is superb, and while I could have sworn to have heard some pitch issues on my first listen, they appear to have disapparated ever since. I had a good feeling I knew what the rest of the album would sound like after hearing this first song. I was wrong.

What I soon learned about Octopus was that it is an album of collaboration, each song featuring a different guest musician. What I soon learned about Spectra was that he is an 11 year old boy with autism and a strong interest in alternative music. I suddenly had a whole new level of appreciation for what I was hearing. Spectra has an array of previous releases on bandcamp, which is amazing, because when I was 11 I was struggling to figure out basic scales on the alto sax. But this is about Octopus, and that is where my focus remains.

Closer and Closer,” has a really cool dark, echoey grunge vibe. From what I can tell,  Spectra provides his voice as breathy whispers until the second half, and the contrast between his tone and (guest musician) Matthew’s works rather well. “Crawling Around” takes a more in-your-face approach, but the breathiness is back along with some robotic-feedback vocal filter. (I dunno, I don’t know technical terms, I’m just spitballing here. I can barely play the alto sax.)

Far Away” is a loud and angry burst of energy, complete with shouted lyrics and punctuated drum hits. Some minor pitch issues, but nothing too distracting to lose my interest. “Gold Shoes,” however, while containing solid framework and potential, struggles to deliver the same result. I can see what they’re going for, but the final product feels much more like a demo than anything that precedes it. “Make My Way” is an appreciated turn, with Ava (or Eva?) on vocals, the song is a tight, catchy number that flies right by.

The presumably Spectra-helmed “My Bass Guitar” works quite well with Matthew in charge of guitar and some one resting shifts in tempo. Again, minor pitch issues aside, this is a fun song about customizing a bass guitar (a lyric that took me this whole week to finally decipher). It might lack some of the polished feeling that exists on “Cracked, Broken and Lost” and “Far Away,” but I still enjoy it each time through.

Outrage” is the only song with pitch issues strong enough to deter my enjoyment of the song. It’s a quick number, and much like “Gold Shoes,” I see the potential, it’s just not there yet. I hope they keep working on it, because the layout is solid and I think in time it could be a blast.

Keep on Looking,” is a strong number to end on. Returning Spectra to the forefront, it shows strong diversity in style and tempo, and it’s a definite standout. Morgan and Spectra’s Dad provide the keyboards and guitar respectively, working as an effective rhythm section. 

Octopus has strong direction and an array of talent, all worked into a 17-minute 9-song album. The ground covered in that short time-span is impressive, and the fact that Spectra is only 11 makes it all the more impressive. However, there is definite room to grow, and with his whole life ahead of him I truly think he’ll get there.

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Highlights include: Cracked, Broken and Lost,” “Make My Way,” and “Keep on Looking

You can listen to Octopus here.

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Going on a blind date with Octopus

3/5 stars

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