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Date Posted: 12:09:16 12/08/04 Wed
Here's an album I feel any Beatles fan could appreciate, if not fall in love with. The album is called Black Foliage: Animation Music and is performed by The Olivia Tremor Control.
The Olivias had a fairly short run in the mid to late 90s, and managed to release two 5-star records as well as an odds and ends collection, all recorded on a series of ever-breaking 4 and 8 tracks. Not so much a "band," as it was a group of 5 multi-instrumentalists, OTC was led by songwriters Will Hart and Bill Doss. In the most general sense, you could say Doss was the McCartney side presenting whimsical pop like "Hide Away" and "A New Day," while Hart played the Lennon role with more exploratory material like "A Sleepy Company" and "Paranormal Echoes." Sanwiched in between is the entire gammut of 60s psychedelia. In particular, "period" instruments like violin and clarinet provided by bassist John Fernandez help give the album a Sgt Pepper-esque "other-world-liness." "Grass Canons" especially stands out as having a fantasic-Willy-Wonka style feel to it.
What made Olivia more than "just another band" was their interest outside the conventional pop song. The subtitle "Animation Music" refers to 5 variations on the melody of the title track scattered throughout the album, almost acting as little intermissions. What must be frustrating for new listeners is the fact that OTC devotes almost as much time to these headphone experiments, equivalent to the 2nd fade out of "Strawberry Fields Forever," as they do material that resembles the first 3 minutes of that Beatles gem. Rather than seeing that as a cause for the CD players skip button, one might take this to be a statement on the mentality of the CD purchasing public. Stay with me. An American might spend x amount of money on a CD, expecting back-to-back radio friendly singles. If x percentage of the time on said CD is devoted to tape splices, impromptu instrumentals and bird noises, the consumer may be inclined to feel that that percentage of their $15 was spent unwisely, or at least on something non-musical. The Olivias in turn have presented not only a top notch psychedelic album, but also a statement on art and modern consumer culture. In short, if the album is quiet for a moment, there is a reason for that, so just sit and enjoy it.
One of the most patience-testing pauses in music comes just before the band, at their most Beatle-esque moment imforms us that "the bark, below it, the ants and snails are having orange parties." Herein lies the most Beatle influenced element any band has ever had. Not a 7th chord, not an Everly-esque harmony, not even a backward recording. Only the notion that the band knows something we don't, and the assurance that everything is going to be okay.
C-2, A-2, G-5, A-5
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