Of Montreal
Deflated Chime, Foals Slightly Flower Sibylline Responses EP

of Montreal have been on fairly massive tours for much of the time since the release of their last album, The Sunlandic Twins, in April 2005. Somewhere along the way, leader Kevin Barnes (who does all of the instrumental work and engineering on Of Montreal recordings himself) produced a couple of new tracks that appear, along with one song from each of the last two OM albums, on this special EP (released to coincide with their current Winter 2006 US tour).

Normally, a release like this is not the most noteworthy thing in the world, and it’s perhaps easy to just look at this EP as one would typically look at some extra record a band puts out in between albums. But I won’t spare words here: Kevin Barnes is doing nothing short of astonishing work these days and his two new songs deserve pause.

The first new track, “Psychotic Feeling,” begins with a verse section arranged for drum machine, bass, and two clean guitars playing what sound like upper register, repeating eighth-note duads (essentially a two-note chord) in harmony with one another. Two lines into it, the verse begins to take off with a soaring melody and now two basses playing in counterpoint. Songs that go straight to the chorus after the first verse are known as “Surrender to the Ecstasy” songs (I have personally dubbed them this myself), and this can only be one of them. In fact, Barnes creates liason between the verse and the chorus by singing the chorus’ first line before the verse has ended, with the last word of the line hitting right on the downbeat of the chorus.

This is the explosion. And the chorus of the song is indeed an explosion, with yet another bass part (!) coming in, two synth lines, and now two Kevin Barneses singing in harmony. The song proceeds from this point with one more verse, the chorus again with new words, and then a bridge that’s similar to the second part of the verse, but building even more this time such that Barnes, on the last word (“Oh, but my head is so full of this horrible light/It just attacks/I can’t fight BACK!”), is not even hitting a pitch in the scale anymore; he is just YELLING.

Having reached its denouement, the song then ends with a wordless coda. It is a structurally archetypal song, not just in its sectional layout but also in the utter economy of each of its sections. It times at almost three minutes exactly.

The other new song, “More Noir Blues and Tinnitus,” is a ballad based around a wash of processed keyboard sound split up between left and right channels (the “tinnitus” element of the song). With its single repeating chord progression, outer-space synth melody, and reverb-y, low-register, single-string guitar line, the track perhaps bears some resemblance to the early, song-oriented material of Sonic Boom’s post-Spacemen 3 group Spectrum, but with a chord progression worthy of John Lennon (not an exaggeration) and still managing to be electronic dance music with beat box and minimal, funky bass. The singular repetition of chords in the song creates a sense of listening to an unchanging, floating mass, aided by the fact that the chord sequence is structured such that one easily loses a sense of its beginning and end.

Both of these are genuinely heartbreaking songs. “Psychotic Feeling,” a song of a person with inner troubles, fearing loss, is trauma experienced finally, at song’s end, spiritually (“To suffer is holy”) via the coda of “heavenly,” wordless falsetto harmonies. “More Noir Blues and Tinnitus” is music as something beautiful, yet ephemeral and elusive (slipping away forever, as all music does), leaving the listener unsettled by its continual return to the home chord: a plaintive major seventh that never gives a sense of firm resolution.

Topically, that which is unresolved in the song is the love inside that no longer finds its destination, but can only soar up to the heavens (to God). (“To suffer is holy.”) As Barnes merely sings, two times, and once again in angelic harmony:
The celebration has ended
And now no one can compare
I’ll be searching for you in everyone
But you won’t be there
No, you won’t be there

Reviewed by: Tim Ellison
Reviewed on: 2006-02-07
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