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Black Foliage: Animation Music (Remastered)

The Olivia Tremor Control

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Album Review

If the preceding Dusk at Cubist Castle was the Olivia Tremor Control's very own White Album, then the labyrinthine Black Foliage is their SMiLE — it's an imploding masterpiece, a work teetering on the cliff's edge between genius and madness. Torn at the seams between pop transcendence and noise radicalism, the group attempts to have it both ways, meaning teenage symphonies to God like "A New Day" rest uneasily alongside musique concrète-styled tape pastiches such as "Combinations" (which, along with the similarly styled, multi-part title track, is one of the many sonic motifs snaking its way throughout the record). There are at least enough ideas for five albums here, which is both Black Foliage's strength and its weakness — it's impossible not to get lost inside of the OTC's swirling schizophrenia, and too often snatches of brilliance flash by too quickly to savor the moment. Moreover, with songs like "California Demise 3" continuing the oblique narrative running through previous OTC records, the artistic statement the record is making (and there undoubtedly is one) is impenetrable at best. Still, with each of the band's successive releases seeming like just part of a much bigger picture only now beginning to come into focus, maybe that's the point. Ultimately, Black Foliage just might be an end-of-the-millennium appeal that speaks directly and solely to the unconscious.

Biography

Formed: 1992 in Athens, GA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s

As much a concept as a band, the Olivia Tremor Control was one of the most visible and innovative members of the Elephant 6 collective, a coterie of like-minded, lo-fi indie groups — including the Apples in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Secret Square — who shared musicians, ideas, and sensibilities. The Olivia Tremor Control was led by singers/songwriters/multi-instrumentalists Will Cullen Hart and Bill Doss, natives of the small, isolated town of Ruston, Louisiana,...
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