|The term experimental hip-hop typically suggests a hazy fug of lethargic beats and languorous atmospherics, the soundtrack to some stoner B-boy's psychedelic reverie or mildly paranoid acid comedown. cLOUDDEAD, for example, blunt and moisten the sharp, dry edges of their music and abstract its sociopolitical bite into inner/outer space surrealism, Octavius adopt a different strategy. In much the same way as Third Eye Foundation's Semtex smothered its drum and bass breaks with a blanket of scorching guitar feedback, William Marshall and his Oakland cohorts don't so much soften the jagged topography of hip-hop as hold down a pillow of freaked out distortion to its face and watch it kick, thrash and finally suffocate in numbed surrender.|
Clearly Marshall and co are as indebted to industrial forbears like Trent Reznor as they are to The Rza, in as much thrall to My Bloody Valentine as DJ Shadow. Yet despite wearing its influences so obviously on its sleeve, Audio Noir is a remarkably fresh and exciting album. "Monochrome" swathes its Lynch/Badalamenti sample in a fraying cloak of chaotic reversed instrumentation and sibilant vocal effects, its waltz-time beat working impassively beneath the track's mournful maelstrom in a way that recalls AR Kane's Lolita. "Cellophane" and "Vacant/Panic" see Marshall in great hectoring voice over shattering, lunatic backdrops of distended beats and chilling noise fanfares. The apocalyptic density produced by the collision of Nathaniel Eras's programming and the echo-drenched guitar of Giovanni Cruz is unremitting but compulsive and there are passages of great invention and blasted beauty throughout.
While the work of Octavius is hardly revolutionary, to dismiss it as humourless or sophomoric would be grossly unfair. Marshall's fractured harangue rails more against his own confusion and impotence than at the state of the world around him. Yet Audio Noir feels like much more of a political document than that might suggest. In contrast to the frigid expanses of Ice and Scorn, or the slackerscapes of the Anticon crew, there's a sense here that the very DNA of hip-hop has mutated into new shapes, rather than been grafted onto a separate genus of experimental practice. -�The Wire