Octo Octa (below) with her partner Eris Drew (above). Image courtesy of Cracked Magazine.

Davis Braswell ’21 (he/ him)

The latest release from Octo Octa, otherwise known as Maya Bouldry-Morrison, is the third installment in her exploration of love and liberation. She’s Calling was released in February of this year as the fourth album from her T4T LUV NRG label. Bouldry-Morrison and her partner, Eris Drew, work to produce what they call “alchemical objects for use in DJing, dancing, kissing, and crying.” The two have spent quarantine running the label and producing music from a cabin in the New Hampshire forest. Bouldry-Morrison exhibits her inner development from this time through a dazzling breakbeat expression of nature and her own trans identity.

For Lovers is the first in this trilogy of works showcasing Octa’s introspection through music. Released in 2019, the EP features the first recording of her voice on a record since her transition. Octo Octa delivers an enchanting meld of flowing synths and thumping drums from the opening track, encapsulating the escape found in club music while manifesting a healing state for the listener. Each song feels like a hymn devoted to intimacy on all levels. Her subsequent album from later that year, Resonant Body, builds on these themes. It was recorded at her wooded New Hampshire residence, and commences Bouldry-Morrison’s incorporation of nature. Moving flawlessly from jarring acid rhythms, to raving baselines, to ambient sounds from wildlife, the album condenses a multifaceted artist — one who equally values the energy of a city club and the tranquility of a peaceful walk in the wilderness. Her description of the album on Bandcamp details how Bouldry-Morrison attempts “to channel the resonance of the forest, the beauty of the river, and the energy she conducts within it.” Such a desire is actualized through this freeing house odyssey. She’s Calling is her newest chapter expanding on the common element between these two projects: ritual.

Techno music is often a unifying, spiritual experience for those sharing a dance floor. While entranced in a common rhythm, a collective grows to establish a kind of tradition for loving growth. The mutual release and shared intimacy become a healing ritual for those truly moved by the scene. Octo Octa embodies this feeling on She’s Calling. The record begins with a classic breakbeat track in Goddess Calling. A familiar house bassline and punching drums intertwine with ethereal vocal samples that provide a transcendence from typical club music. Such hardcore elements transition between moments of placid synth layers to juxtapose different energies found in the refuge of musical ritual. However, Bouldry-Morrison unapologetically dives into a high-energy banger on Find Your Way Home. She recorded this song while on tour before the pandemic struck, and the inspirations from rave performances are clear: funky drums are accompanied by stinging high hats, while the momentum of the track is emphasized through scratching and rousing ad-libs. The concluding track on the project shifts away from this vibrancy. Spell for Nature features a spoken-word poetry performance from Bouldry-Morrison herself. Ambient synths build into a miscellany of echoing chords, rattling drums, and mild breakbeat as she asks “in her own voice to connect with nature personified in the form of a goddess,” as she writes on her Bandcamp page. Her poem is an ode to the holy presence found in natural creation. It reminisces on the warming invitation extended by this omnipresent force. 

This EP features inspiration from an assortment of Bouldry-Morrison’s experiences. More than anything, her queer identity is articulated in the eclectic blend of emotions. Electronic music has long served as a source of community and refuge for queer people, and the breakbeat genre epitomizes feelings of gender non-conformity for many. These sonic medleys reminisce on emotional multiplicities and complex struggles with identity. Octo Octa, along with other trans artists such as Wangled Teb, work with this blend of jungle and hardcore sound to rupture burdensome judgements, ultimately constructing an emanation of nonconforming acceptance.  One can feel this escapism on each project from Bouldry-Morrison. She produces records that allow universal communion in the rituals of music and dance, but fashion a unique space for queer circles. My position as a cisgendered, heterosexual writer cannot properly express the meaning this holds for many. Her music is simply an emotional refuge lending an accepting hand to those most in need. Moreover, 50% of the proceeds from Resonant Body and She’s Calling are given to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. This organization works to promote visibility for transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming individuals, particularly those from underserved communities, and to provide legal aid for queer self-determination. Consider purchasing Octo Octa’s music on Bandcamp. The EP characterizes a remarkable authenticity from a powerfully vulnerable artist.

Davis Braswell ‘21 (he/him) is an Economics and Philosophy major from Cary, NC. He can be reached for comment at dabraswell@davidson.edu.