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The Olivia Tremor Control

Presents: Singles and Beyond

(Emperor Norton)

The cult of Brian Wilson is growing every day, and, like the rest of the Elephant 6 bands, The Olivia Tremor Control can definitely be considered guilty of taking major inspiration from him and some of the other great songwriters of his era. Still, The Olivia Tremor Control is not your average ‘60s-influenced “indie rock” band. They seem as influenced by avant garde music and bohemian art movements as by ‘60s rock. They have a love for pop melodies, but also for surrealistic sound pieces and tape loops.

Singles and Beyond is, as the title indicates, a collection of singles and other hard-to-find recordings. Specifically, it combines their “California Demise” and “The Giant Day” EPs with songs from compilation albums and a split 7”. Much of the material is closer in sound to that of their first full-length album, Music from the Unrealized Film Script Dusk at Cubist Castle, than the more polished, fuller follow-up Black Foliage. In other words, this is pretty lo-fi stuff, nothing too glossy or slick.

I’ve often heard people talk of the two sides of OTC, the pop/rock side and the experimental side, yet to me it’s obvious that even their most straightforward rock songs are infused with a psychedelic haziness. Singles and Beyond displays all aspects of OTC’s sound, from the catchy tunes “Love Athena” and “A Sunshine Fix” to sound collages like “Collage #1” and “Late Music 2,” which utilize snippets from their songs and other unrecognized sources.

Though the compiled nature of Singles and Beyond leads it to be not quite as cohesive an entity as their two albums, it really doesn’t matter. To a fan like me, especially one too poor to buy every 7” and compilation that a band appears on, this sort of collection is a dream. I adore singles compilations; they bridge that eternal gap between the money in my pocket and the music want list in my brain. And The Olivia Tremor Control is the perfect candidate for such an album. The songs here are not only mostly hard to find at this point, but in terms of quality they are as interesting and catchy as anything they’ve done. Due to the cohesiveness factor, especially important when you’re mixing experimental pieces with pop songs, this might not be the best first buy for someone new to OTC. But for a fan, this is a magical thing.

Dave Heaton has been writing about music on a regular basis since 1993, first for unofficial college-town newspapers and DIY fanzines and now mostly on the Internet. In 2000, the same year he started writing for PopMatters, he founded the online arts magazine, still around but often in flux. He writes music reviews for the print magazine The Big Takeover. He is a music obsessive through and through. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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