Record Label: Polyvinyl Records
Release Date: February 7th, 2012
The evidence is unfortunately clear. of Montreal make excellent records when Kevin Barnes gets depressed. The last bout of psychological negative energy that Kevin Barnes experienced was essentially channelled into the bi-product that would eventually become Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, an album that championed the band and has to date been unsurpassable as a piece of work by the collective. The band then got all sex driven and Oedipal on us with Skeletal Lamping and on False Priest they (unsuccessfully) attempted to break the mainstream with the help of producer Jon Brion, and singers Janelle Monae/Solange Knowles. Now returning to the dark negative energies of their seminal album, of Montreal have produced a record that tones down the psycho and instead channels the raw emotion that has worked so well in previous efforts. But there is of course a twist, this time they have attacked and harpooned some classical instruments. And it certainly works.
“Gelid Ascent” opens with the alarming lyrics, “You are what parasites evolved from/Still an unanswered question/You are the refuse energy from a superior form”. The song itself is layered with moody guitar, timid yet painfully off kilter drumming and sharp piano keys. This intro certainly lays the foundation for the dark record to come. The song runs straight into “Spiteful Intervention” where Barnes’ frantically manic voice takes over the tune to match the yawning blurts of violin. The human condition of suffering is certainly instilled into this song in an evolutionary yet emphatic way. The song describes itself better than I can: “asthmatic energy”. First official single “Dour Percentage” introduces an aspect of Barnes voice that we have not heard in awhile, pleasant sing-talking. The song is essentially a piano ballad with accompanying pipes and sax, and really showcases of Montreal’s re-embrace of normal song structures, which the band had successfully obliterated on their previous two albums. “Malefic Dowery” is another complimentary example of a slower paced pipe and piano ballad, and the conscious return to basic song structures.
As this album progresses so does the experimental and excessive instrumental elements. “Ye, Renew the Plaintiff” is arguably the best track on the album with the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach now incorporating a kitchen sink. The track is a spazz out synth and drumming led track which takes you through a journey that you will surely want to experience again and again. There is screaming and guitar breakdowns to boot, but the second half of the almost nine minute song really takes the meaning of accessible yet experimental to a new height for of Montreal. The ambience leaking out from the multiple instruments are only complimented by the superior instrument that is Kevin Barnes powerful voice. The last two songs on the album “Exorcismic Breeding Knife” and “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission” account for one third of the overall album and they are (mostly) instrumental tracks in the vein of Sufjan Stevens 2011 polarising album The Age of Adz or a drugged up Walt Disney soundtrack. Although not completely enjoyable, they do showcase and tow the post-modern classical music line between manic and structured quite successfully. Overall, this album is a delicious return to form.