[9 June 2006]
I admit that I find tour EPs a little perplexing at times. Take, for example, Of Montreal’s recent winter tour EP, Deflated Chime, Foals Slightly Flower Sibylline Responses. I had assumed that such a limited, unique release—available only directly from the band at shows and via the Polyvinyl website—would be intended as a reward to the fans, giving them something new for coming out to the show. Why, then, pad a four song EP with two tracks from recent albums—albums which precisely those fans seeking a rare tour EP would surely already have in their collections—leaving only two unreleased tracks? This would tend to suggest that the EP is actually more of a promotional disc, offering new material along with a couple confirmed “hits.” Except I’m not even sure that the disc went out to radio stations or other promotional targets, and the limited nature of the release (as billed on the Polyvinyl web site) seems to suggest that this was not the case. As such, this peculiarly arranged and cumbersomely titled CD EP may be best examined by laying aside the older material and treating it as if it were a simple 7” single, with an a-side and a b-side.
The a-side is clearly “Psychotic Feeling”, a jaunty pop song typical of Kevin Barnes’ recent efforts, complete with layers of keyboards, insistent guitar strumming, unnecessary but finely-wrought electronic flourishes, and undeniable catchiness. With its processed drums and echo effects, the song would be right at home amid the synth-pop of last full length The Sunlandic Twins, from which it may be an outtake. As such, it’s not the best example of its kind, and probably won’t surprise fans with its arrangement choices, but it’s nonetheless a fun track.
Over on the b-side, we get “Noir Blues to Tinnatus”, a slow appeal to missed or fading romance laid over languid guitar on a backdrop of blearily sun-dappled synth swirls, as if Barnes and Co. are playing in a melancholic photo overdeveloped to washout by Boards of Canada. As there have been relatively few of these more downtempo Of Montreal selections lately, it’s a refreshing shift for the band, even though the song’s single verse is couched in a full five minutes of instrumental. It manages to be mesmerizing for a while, but the lack of shift or progression in the arrangement seems a little lazy. Even so, it’s a welcome inclusion.
So that’s our 7”: two new songs, both decent, though neither is of the caliber of highlight tracks from the last few albums, like the perfect pop creation of “Requiem for O.M.M.2” or polar opposite love songs “Your Magic Is Working” and “Eros’ Entropic Tundra”. Perhaps this is where those recycled bonus tracks come in: they are excellent examples of the last couple albums. First, “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games” (from The Sunlandic Twins) serves as sleek, bass-driven electro-pop, allowing its clear sheen to slip a little with an odd second bass serving as counter-rhythm, to intriguing effect. And one of my personal favorites, “Disconnect the Dots” (from Satanic Panic in the Attic), holds formation with handclaps and nice dirty synth leads before breaking into piano and Beach Boys-quoting, multi-tracked harmonies on the chorus.
It’s an odd little EP, but with the included highlight material it could perhaps serve as a good introduction to the band, if it didn’t seem so unlikely that new listeners would ever be able to track down a copy. Still, old fans will have two solid new tracks to entice them, as well as new artwork by long-time Of Montreal cover designer David Barnes. I’m still a little puzzled as to the goal of such a release, but it seems ungrateful to complain about what is, after all, essentially bonus material offered between larger projects.