Review: South Of No North – Octopussies Liquor Store

Like the vibrant, flailing concoction of aquatic limbs and curious eyes floating across the cover of Octopussies Liquor Store, the music’s first 15 minutes are a bizarre mixture of sounds of withheld origins (keyboards? Guitars?), dancing and droning across the audio space like alien voices, often bubbling and mutated by the water. It’s an oceanic jungle if you will: full of animals letting out an eclectic multitude of cries, shouting over eachother too much to be considered in conversation, but certainly aware of, and reactive to, the input of the neighbouring inhabitants. It’s mushy and fluid; heavily guided by a constant drum groove, but forever spilling outside of its rhythmic constraints, with the mercurial movement of sonic tentacles flopping and swaying obliviously to its own tempo. The groove is dismantled and re-established. A slight injection of cyborg electronics makes its presence known before slinking into the backdrop and permitting the organic conversation to continue. South Of No North ride these improvised narrative turns with ease, consuming their impact and regurgitating them as subtle behavioural modifications.

Things get a little punchier for the second piece – assertive impact brings in explosions of cymbal crash and fizzy distortion, as the band’s boneless joints solidify. An aggression begins to consume, with collaborative politeness is shoved aside to make ample room for a chaotic volume war. Synthesizers begin to resemble emergency sirens, rocket launches and the erratic ping-zip-plonk collage of a gigantic pinball machine, and South Of No North begin to peel away from their jammed-out interdependence to shut themselves inside their own individual noisy cocoons. Gone is the subtlety of communication that drives the opening track; Octopussies Liquor Store becomes brash and spiky to the touch, riled up by the noise until everything crashes and explodes. The textures themselves are considerably less interesting during the second half (I’m presented with the mental image of hands spanking keyboards and guitarists convulsing indulgently in the wake of their racket, instead of the vibrant watery underworld of the first piece), but the sense of musical enjoyment that surges out of these jams is nonetheless infectious.