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Olivia Tremor Control
Lush Melodies Rooted in Flower Power

Olivia Tremor Control’s new double album, Black Foliage: Animation Music by the Olivia Tremor Control, is chock full of perfect ‘60s pop melodies and noisy psychedelic interludes. And as part of the Elephant 6 group, a communal collective of artists based in Athens, Georgia, the band forgoes indie-rock’s punk sensibility in favor of an idealistic flower-child sensibility.

The singer/guitarist Bill Doss says that on the new album, the band members were aiming to combine their dual interests in ‘60s pop structures and experimental weirdness. Hallucinatory at times, the music can be silly and frivolous as well. Recorded in a homemade studio with little more equipment than the Beatles used for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Black Foliage is lo-fi but by no means bare bones.

Olivia Tremor Control’s earnest campiness and eagerness to reinvent recall the work of such cult bands as the Flaming Lips and Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Doppler-effect vocals, tape loops, nonsensical lyrics, and odd noises accompany the guitars and drums.

“We try to make the songs as visual as possible,” explains Doss. Like their 1996 album, Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle, the new offering is both a concept album and soundtrack to a movie yet to be made. A simple melodic theme surfaces five or six times on the twenty-seven-track CD. Nonetheless, Doss finds it hard to articulate exactly what is the effect of the band’s experiments. His description includes words like “nonlinear,” “surreal,” and “anti-plot.” Needless to say, if films ever get made for these soundtracks, they would be colorful and densely layered, like the music.

Their collective recording process has created some unexpected problems. At least twenty or twenty-five friends performed on the CD, making it difficult to divvy up royalties. “That’s already become a problem,” Doss says.

The band brings a whimsical, impressionistic feel into their live set as well. “We’ve finally learned about every song on Dusk, and we know half of the new record,” says Doss. In previous shows, the mask-wearing band has performed with friends dressed like jesters and others walking around on stilts. “Sometimes we make it a circus,” says Doss. “One time we had a guy riding a unicycle across the stage playing a trombone.”

For this tour Doss promises a small brass section and video projectionist along with the five-piece group, although he can’t be very specific. “We’ll pull something together. Everything’s kinda last minute.”

Originally published in the Orlando Weekly on January 14, 1999.