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Storm the castle,
This review is from: Dusk at Cubist Castle (Audio CD)
Take the heart of the Beatles and wrap it in the melodies of Neutral Milk Hotel and/or the Flaming Lips... and you have Olivia Tremor Control -- one of the best swirls of neo-psychedelica in history. "Music From the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle" is an intoxicating, sprawling mix of abstract soundscapes and Beatles-esque pop -- and it never stumbles once.
The first song opens with a slowly revving bass, haunted by a backdrop of peculiar feedback sounds... followed by a majestic, poppy "Opera House." Things take a slightly stranger turn in the eerie music-box melody of "Frosted Ambassador" and the fizzing, exotic "Tropical Bells." But still there is the upbeat, slightly warped Britpoppy "Courtyard" and slightly ominous beauty of "Holiday Surprise 1,2,3."
But after the lush piano-pop of "Marking Time," things take a rather surreal turn. A ten-song cycle called "Green Typewriters continues, mixing distortion, fuzz and sputtery percussion with synths and lilting vocals. They return to their previous sound with the brassy pop of "Spring Succeeds," but most of what remains is eerie and strange. The climax is "Dusk at Cubist Castle," a sprawling seven-and-a-half-miniute track with a dark, shimmery background and the sounds of a Tibetan prayer bowl.
It's hard to criticize any one song on "Music From the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle," because it feels more like a musical tapestry of many different colors. Diss one song while praising another? Can't be done. Even "Green Typewriters VIII," a ten-minute sprawl of ominous sounds, seems to fit in perfectly.
The biggest flaw might be the obvious debt to the Beatles -- at times you can almost swear you hear John and Paul in there. But the Beatles at their most psychedelic never made anything like this -- space bubbles, sparkling piano, trombones, the singing saw, Tibetan prayer bowls, all overlaid on jolly pop melodies and ominous soundscapes teeming with fuzz and distortion. Even at its most abstract, Olivia Tremor Control's sound is hypnotic.
The vocals are handled by Robert Schneider and Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum (who is rumored to have joined the circus or something like that). Their vocals are a bit off-key, but pleasant and warm. And the songwriting reflects the music -- it starts off relatively normal with "Conflict in our heads makes us see/without the depth that we used to/all of the problems in our way." Pretty ordinary, huh? But the second half has dreamlike songs like "Dusk at Cubist Castle/all the clouds are in past tense/all the kingdom is in fragments/and these paintings don't make sense..." You don't need to understand -- just listen.
Olivia Tremor Control's "Music From the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle" is a sweeping psychedelic tapestry, full of strange dreams and even stranger music. This unrecognized classic is a must have, for those willing to dream and imagine the Cubist Castle.