For the past three years or so Maya Bouldry-Morrison has been on a mission. A personal one. Guiding the musical output of her guise as Octo Octa—far left of typical contemporary house music and into the sweaty, gear-oriented tracks of euphoric rave. She’s put on a production clinic through a series of EPs and albums that showcase a deftly trained ear and gut (and become one of the most visible transgender artists in dance music along the way). This fluid conversation—a revelatory and amazing feat—on how electro, house, dub, trip-hop, breakbeat, and drum ‘n’ bass relate to one another is a Zoom conference call waiting to happen.
Forsaking whatever in thee Sam Hill seems to be trending in clubland these days for mindful, specific choices is maturity taking hold. Nostalgic drum sequencing, breakbeat soundscapes, and all types of ’90s ecstatic romanticism as it pertains to tribal high energy trips—it’s a different gear.
But what some would deem as antiquated and even self-absorbed, Bouldry-Morrison has resurrected as political. Human. Spiritual.
Go ask, or find a former raver from the early San Francisco ’90s—PLUR and all that hippie talk included. They’d spill the gospel. Recount stories about gathering couch change to eat veggie burritos all week from either Taqueria Cancun locations on Mission street in order to attend the Wicked Sound System Full Moon party at Candlestick Park.
Amen breaks raising the sun at 6am is foundational Bay Area rave culture. Banana-caked or cold sober. You feel it. That connectivity. Once those parties got shuttled out of the SOMA warehouses and back rooms off Natoma alike, that ritual with the sea air and waves gently crashing on the shore for breakfast down by The ‘Stick? For bass-bin heads, that was home.
Octo Octa’s recent “She’s Calling,” a three track EP pulsating with emotion and belief, presents a similar haven. Circling back to those cherubic textures found on 2019’s “For Lovers,” EP this record was put out on her T4T LUV NRG imprint, co-founded with partner Eris Drew. In the same way Earth Wind & Fire are looked upon as the Black Beatles, breakbeat is elemental, the founder, the genesis to all forms of electronic music.
The record opens with the round and bouncy “Goddess Calling,” full of ephemeral power turned up past 11, with stealthy tiny horn samples placed in corners for decoration. Big drums, wavy synths and interrupted beats move about for a good five minutes, then in a Trevor Horn production-like move, we get a second suite, in house music form, slimming down the round and bouncy into streamlined controlled 4/4 heat.
“Find Your Way Home” is a nod to those block rockin’ beats—simple, plush and luminous—interspersed with high energy DJ cut-and-scratching vinyl manipulation with vocal shouts of “Let’s do it.”
It’s a rave get down for sure, until the five-minute mark, and again our producer intersperses O.G. techniques with contemporary house sound textures. When the bass and synths drop low and get sci-fi in an ultramodern way, it’s a decade jump in 15 seconds. (According to the liner notes, it was written a few weeks before the pandemic forced Bouldry-Morrison to cancel her tour and head back to the US in early 2020.)
The final track “Spell For Nature,” the strongest spoken word track by the artist in the past couple of years, illuminates how the right combination of churchy-organ riffs, gear-head drumfire, and dramatic piano loops can fortify an indestructible human spirit. Channeling her own frequencies, Octo Octa again stands right on time.