Of Montreal, The Gay Parade; Olivia Tremor Control, Black Foliage

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Olivia Tremor Control
Black Foliage: Animation Music By The Olivia Tremor Control
by Sarah Zupko
PopMatters Editor & Publisher

Formed in Louisiana and now split into two geographic camps, Athens and Denver, the bands of the Elephant Six collective are producing some of the most adventurous and exciting pop music of the 1990s. While the Denver camp (namely Apples In Stereo and The Minders) is firmly rooted in the Beatles/Zombies school of ‘60s British pop, the Athens camp (Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control among others) is a more experimental bunch that adds a strong dose of psychedelia and roots rock to the mix.

Olivia Tremor Control

Black Foliage: Animation Music By the Olivia Tremor Control

Of Montreal, the brainchild of Kevin Barnes, springs from this fertile Athens scene and their new offering The Gay Parade easily outpaces even their previous brilliant work. With a treasure trove of loopy Yellow Submarine and Sgt. Peppers characterizations, Beatles/Small Faces/Ray Davies/Brian Wilson musical references, and a vaudevillian sensibility, The Gay Parade comes across as nothing short of a brilliant lost 1960s concept album. Those who appreciate the pastoral, music hall pop of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (Small Faces) and Something Else-era Kinks will find this record utterly irresistible.

Olivia Tremor Control’s latest is their most ambitious statement—a sprawling, epic, concept album full of wacky orchestration, mysterious blips and squiggles, and psychedelic arrangements. Black Foliage immediately brings to mind Sgt. Peppers and the experimental side of John Lennon, particularly “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “I Am The Walrus.” Along with the overt Beatles references is the pure Brian Wilson lush orchestral pop of “Hideway.” These pop tunes are framed with instrumental passages utilizing electronic samples, sound effects, and myriad obscure musical instruments. Time will tell, but Black Foliage has all the marks of a major pop masterpiece—brilliant tunes, innovative arrangements, clever lyrics, a thoroughly adventurous spirit, and a musical depth that always reveals something new on repeated listenings. It’s a good bet you could listen to this record 50 times and never hear it exactly the same way twice. I think what we have here is 1999’s OK Computer—the album that will set the pace for the rest of the year.

//Mixed media