Sometimes a new sound arrives that is so fresh and different, it’s difficult to know where to place it. There are obvious touchstones but it’s an almost singular vision, which assimilates a bunch of genres into something new. Think about FKA twigs, the first grime dubplates, Brian Eno’s Music For Airports, that second album from Bon Iver with all the snow on the cover, Björk. And now, to add to that list: Octavian, the French-born and British-raised MC whose music is similarly unparalleled.
Yes, OK; maybe it’s hyperbole to compare one MC to, uh, B-fucking-jörk, on the basis of two previous singles—one of which (“Party Here”) was jerked off into the stratosphere by Drake—but the point remains: none of his peers right now sound like Octavian. Genres can be flung into the air like paper airplanes, in a bid to find one that fits—afro-trap, grime, road—but they’re not gonna fly. The closest Octavian is getting to a standard rap song is “100 Degrees” (featuring rap/creative collective House of Pharaohs member Sam Wise) and even that sits slightly out the left-field, arriving from an area where everyone dresses kinda funky.
Basically, as Octavian said on “Party Here”, he’s going to blow—it’s just timing. And never has that been more clear than with the release of his third track “Hands,” which is out today (watch below).
I’m going to be honest: “Hands” took a minute to wrap my head around. That said, it is where some of the above references—Bon Iver, etc.—came from. Sure, the video opens with a lightly forested landscape that fits right into the Justin Vernon canon but it goes beyond that: the use of harmonic Auto-Tune is a stark reminder of the family tree that stretches from 33, A Million to some of the more somber, wintery tracks from Kanye West like “Wolves”. All of which is to say… bring this voice out to the mountain where ‘Ye and Drake are recording in Wyoming and please slap it on a record.
Aside from that tip, “Hands” rewards repeated listens. And that’s a good thing. As Kendrick Lamar might say in an entirely different but still relevant context “There are levels to it, you and I know”. Ultimately “Hands” is on a deeper vibe. Watch the music video—which includes Boris Johnson’s shitty little skywalk thing in the London docklands, tagged-up Berliner subway trains, some hatchback cars slowly (and adorably?!) circling around Octavian on a rooftop—then realise, as he repeats throughout this song, that it was made for “one reason: so you can hear it.” Energy.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.