BY UNDERGROUND WIRES
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 

Of Montreal - "The Past is a Grotesque Animal". These days we at Gramophone are very nervous about posting songs without permission ahead of album releases. Labels v often collaborate and collude with blogs when it comes to promoting releases, but advance leaks are still a touchy subject. So we're cautious; we try to do it only when we're really, really excited, and can't help but share that excitement with you. (See, most recently, Joanna Newsom.)

(Can I also say that two more of my favourite albums of the year aren't going to be out, I don't think, until 2007? And although they're unknowns and the artists are in touch with me, the labels don't want anything leaked early? So I won't? And how one of these artists was told explicitly not to send me anything, because I am a sneaky criminal music pirate, but they did anyway? And yet still I can't tell you about it? Just sometimes maybe drop hints? Argh.)

Ok ok ok but I'm getting distracted by talk of piracy (arr) from the matter at hand. The matter at hand is a set of synth scales that have been built like an Escher staircase, rising over-and-over-and-over-and-over. If I knew my music theory I'd be able to tell you how Of Montreal do this, the name of the cheap Godpseed You! Black Emperor trick they're using. (Anyone out there want to help?) But since I don't know music theory I just have to listen slack-jawed, feeling the song reformulate my spinal fluid.

Because seriously, this is a twelve minute Of Montreal song that leaves me feeling something close to awe. Until Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? leaked to the internet (it's due out on Polyvinyl in late winter 2007), I was only the most ambivalent of Of Montreal listeners. I liked that depressing, uncharacteristic song actually about Montreal. I liked to hear their stuff, occasionally, at indie dance clubs. I liked to hear of them from a friend who talks about this one line about wizards, and I kept meaning to listen again. But yeah - largely ambivalent. And now? Like I said: awe.

Hissing Fauna has many excellent tracks, but "The Past is a Grotesque Animal" is what forced my hand and made me write about the record tonight, months too early, risking fines and jail-time and being added to some indie-rock No Fly list. I do this not for your sake, not for Of Montreal's sake; just because there's some stuff I need to get down:

  • I always think of grooves like this as being krautrock-like. But I only pretend to know very much about Can or Neu. Can it be said to be krautrock-like? Is this a motorik? Probably not. I hope it is, because then I will buy every Neu and Can record.
  • I think I'd be willing to dance so hard to this that it makes me sick.
  • The song hooks me, like, gets me to swallow the hook, right at the moment where Mr Barnes sings: "Standing at a Swedish festival". That's the moment. You can hear me gulp, if you listen close enough.
  • Kevin Barnes reminds me of LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, in places. The way his voice creaks open at 3:19. Or how he sings silly-manic with himself; bipolar excited and lacrimose.
  • I just want to dance till I'm sick.
  • What is this? Psychdance? Synthpop? Psychedelic indie dancepop? I guess? Is there even a real bassline? Really there's just that overandover synthline, Kevin Barnes' singing, a bass-snare beat, and then random swirly noises. Ok and occasional organ solos. It doesn't seem complicated enough to even bear writing about. What's complicated is how it's making my blood flow backwards, turning my red bloodcells white. That's right: red bloodcells suddenly turned into fighters, getting into sweaty dancefloor shoving-matches with the mitochondria. And did I mention this reformulating-my-spinal-fluid thing? Crazy.
  • I read someone complain that the song doesn't go anywhere. They were frustrated because they said that so much tension was built up that even tiny changes could feel amazing, and yet instead the track just repeats all static. ARE YOU CRAZY? This is like one of those optical illusions where everything swirls. You know? Where you look deeper and deeper and then realise you're in the World of the Elder Gods and there are tentacles everywhere and you're dancing so hard you're sick?
  • I wish the last Flaming Lips album was this good.
  • The lyrics are great! What they are like is a relationship breakdown, an existential crisis, a new love-affair, but all communicated only in semafore. Sentences that need to stand alone as you wait for your flag-waves to be transmitted from hill to hill. "The mousy girl screams 'Violence, violence!'" / "The cruelty's so predictable." / "Somehow you've Red-Rover'ed the gestapo circling my heart!" / "Sometimes I wonder / if you're mythologizing me / like I do you." / "None of our secrets are physical." Wisdom tied with string to nuggets of nonsense.
  • This song makes me suspect that if the messiah is ever (finally) born, s/he will live exactly 11 minutes and 53 seconds.
  • And then what?

[see them on tour! / buy other Of Montreal things and maybe lobby Polyvinyl to release Hissing Fauna ahead of next February, so you do not turn blue holding yr breath]

---

Death Vessel - "Later in Life Lift". Recipe for finding friends:

  1. Obtain one (1) wagon.
  2. Place this song in wagon.
  3. Go for a walk. (Take the wagon.)
People occasionally bitch that this blog is too opaque; that we write all metaphorical and stuff. But there's no metaphor here. This song will make you friends. Just put it in a wagon. It's the way those Providence voices blend over the acoustic guitar and tin drum kit; the way the folk-pop melody promises that you'll have fun, light-and-easy. The sweetest song you'll hear today.

[buy Stay Close]

---

I noticed a few days ago that you can buy a print of the image that Keith Andrew Shore did for Said the Gramophone (illustrating Leonard Cohen's "The Old Revolution"). Only $35 - and it looks beautiful. Many months ago Keith also did a new banner for this here site, which we're implementing just as soon as Neale figures out the code.

At Giant Robot there is also an array of astonishing new works by another of our guestbloggers, artist Rachell Sumpter. It's honestly among the most exciting stuff I've seen this year. I've already ordered the print, but if anyone wants to get me a present...

Posted by Sean at October 9, 2006 3:00 AM
Comments

Just found this place, one word . Awesome ! Great quality writing, something I wish I had time [& ahem, patience to do at my blog!] .... I've added you to the blogroll and give The gramophone a shout out @ RetroBabe! ......

Posted by IanB at October 9, 2006 5:14 AM

Holy wow on the Of Montreal track. Teach me to try and avoid them for all the hype. Ta much.

Posted by Simon at October 9, 2006 6:48 AM

I never thought you were writing metaphors, you're writing about what actually happens in a song.

Posted by david at October 9, 2006 8:33 AM

this OM song. god. it kills me.

when i first heard the album - i was all "what the fuck?" this is 12 minutes long? this is in the middle of all these awesome dance-pop tunes? seriously, what the fuck?"

it quickly became my favorite song on the record and maybe one of my top 3 favorite OM songs ever created. brilliant.

Posted by tim at October 9, 2006 1:03 PM

This says alot about StG style and the outofbody genius of sean, dan and jordan.

http://www.viceland.com/int/v13n9/htdocs/records1.php

Posted by david b at October 9, 2006 1:19 PM

Thanks, Of Montreal track is awesome !
You should keep on posting gems like this even if i had to bring you some oranges when you will be in jail :-)

Posted by Tonio at October 9, 2006 1:57 PM

i think i know who one of those artists/bands you can't mention until their record comes out in 2007 is... :)

and, if i'm right, i'm in the exact same boat. it's super frustrating.

Posted by chad at October 9, 2006 3:30 PM

hope for mankind, assembled

Posted by jerimee at October 9, 2006 4:46 PM

Help is here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepard_scale
I believe this is what you're talking about.

Posted by Michael at October 9, 2006 6:10 PM

Today's post is highwater mark for an always great blog. I'm tempted to torrent the last sixmonths of STG as a set piece: The soundtrack to my life, and I suspect I'm not alone. Of Montreal, the dark horse of the E6 crowd, continues to astound me: this is Joy Division meets "Blood on the Tracks." Best of all, your post (as usual) matches the music. Thanks!

Posted by Slothrop at October 10, 2006 2:09 AM

excellent, excellent, post!

Posted by silasdreamed at October 10, 2006 4:05 AM

Next up: metaphors vs. the dully descriptive. I think I'd prefer the metaphors, though the dully descriptive is infinitely easier.

That Of Montreal track is great.

Posted by Tuwa at October 10, 2006 6:27 PM

my goodness. i can't believe ppl "bitch" about the writing on yr blog. this is the only blog i read, and only b/c of the brilliant writing.

(o wait, is brilliant too much of a metaphor here? should i use another more straight forward word to describe what your writing does to me?
but that's exactly what it is, exactly waht it feels like. the writing is brilliant. like a floodlamp held up to my eyes, burning into my soul thru my pupils, lazering thru my nerves and wires into my brain and telling me to scream and jump and karate kick b/c i'm so frickin happy.)

-stephanie

Posted by stephanie lee at October 10, 2006 10:28 PM

this song can definetly be said to be krautrock-like. More Can than Neu!, but definetly bearing more of a resemblance to "Krautrock" off of Faust IV. i agree with your Flaming Lips statement! if only they could go a lil more in this direction..
thanks for the killer post!

Posted by Howard at October 11, 2006 1:53 PM

indeed "late in life" is quite a wonderful song.

Posted by ak1848 at October 16, 2006 11:02 PM

Death Vessel!
Oh, I'm glad others think that playing him will make me friends. I saw him live, and loved him (I say him, not them, because he was solo), as totally overwhelmed by him. I've since introduced the album to people, and although it has a "WTF?" moment to it, it wins them over and gives them joy.

Posted by Sarah at October 25, 2006 2:30 PM

this is one of my favourite tracks of yeah so far. Georges Bataille reference! omg. and the "mousy girl screams "Violence! Violence!" is an Edward Albee reference.

Posted by papat at November 26, 2006 4:47 AM

I'm so obsessed with Of Montreal right now man!?!?!? I understand how you felt when you listened to that song. I still feel the same when I pay attention. Kevin Barnes is really rising the bar.

Great writing btw.

Posted by Eduardo at March 17, 2007 1:06 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

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