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Of Montreal

Jon Brion Remix EP

(Polyvinyl; US: 27 Jan 2009; UK: Available as import)

When Of Montreal dropped their psychedelic, omnisexual opus Skeletal Lamping last year, listeners were divided into two camps: there were those who thought that this was the undeniable apex of Kevin Barnes’s trademark schizo-funk sound, and there were those that felt that Barnes had finally succumbed to his own overindulgent tendencies, resulting in a sprawling, nonsensical slab of half-crazed pop meanderings (this critic most certainly aligned himself with the latter).


So imagine the joy to be found with the aptly-named Jon Brion Remix EP, in which Jon Brion—acclaimed Fiona Apple/Aimee Mann/Kanye West super-producer and film composer—stops by to completely rework two of Lamping‘s best tracks and let his freak flag fly in the process.  First up is a re-jiggering if “An Eluardian Instance” (here retitled “First Time High”), in which Brion does the exact opposite of what’s expected of him: he actually tones things down a bit, softening the mix on the exuberant horn sections and then making up for that by filling the “soft rock” keyboard breakdown in the middle with his ever-abundant array of acoustic guitar pluckings, all sounding as if they’re fluttering down like leaves from a tree.  It doesn’t do much to change the context or tone of the song, but it at least shakes things up a little bit—a fun little detour if there ever was one. 


Yet when it comes to “First Time High (Of Chicago Acoustic Version)”, all bets are off.  Brion strips the song down to its acoustic roots, grounding Barnes’s voice in a sea of exuberant-yet-focused ukuleles just because he can.  The end result is nothing short of magical: Barnes’s tale of short-lived courtship absolutely comes to life with Brion’s new arrangement, no longer suffocating under Barnes’s generous overproduction.  By making Barnes’s voice the focal point of the song while still retaining the hyperactive feel that dotes Of Montreal’s best work, Brion may have accidentally crafted what may be the greatest Of Montreal track to date (no kidding).


The more club-oriented remix of “Gallery Piece” isn’t helped or hindered by Brion’s addition of bubbly keyboards, but the three versions that appear here (original mix, “long mix”, and instrumental form) still tease at what could’ve been: a full-fledged meeting of eccentric minds that not only works, but sounds almost exactly like what you’d expect it to.  To get this much fun out of this short of an EP—now that’s something to get excited about.

Rating:

Evan Sawdey started contributing to PopMatters in late 2005, and has also had his work featured in publications such as SLUG Magazine, The Metro (U.K.), Soundvenue Magazine (Denmark), the Daily Dot, and many more. Evan has been a guest on HuffPost Live, RevotTV's "Revolt Live!", and WNYC's Soundcheck (an NPR affiliate), was the Executive Producer for the Good With Words: A Tribute to Benjamin Durdle album, and wrote the liner notes for the 2011 re-release of Andre Cymone's hit 1985 album A.C. (Big Break Records), the 2012 re-release of 'Til Tuesday's 1985 debut Voices Carry (Hot Shot Records), and many others. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. You can follow him @SawdEye should you be so inclined.


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