Thursday, 26 January 2012

Of Montreal - Paralytic Stalks

This is the eleventh Of Montreal album called Paralytic Stalks, a name which doesn't surprise me to be honest knowing the past album titles. This was recorded entirely in Athens, Georgia. More specifically it was mostly recorded in lead singer Kevin Barnes home. He was originally part of the Elephant Six collective in the late 90's before Of Montreal gained a slight amount of Indie success and recognition by the upcoming hipster society of planet Earth. The sound here is far more compact and experimental than previous Of Montreal albums. The vocal harmonies and delay add to the heavy drumming which sounds very 70's esque in terms of the Progressive Rock style.

The band have taken a look back at their earlier material, with darker lyrics and a mixed blend of musical genres. The album is very psychedelic and progressive, which can be heard instantly with the opening track, 'Gelid Ascent'. This song is very Pink Floyd/Genesis sounding. With it's rhythmic sythesizer and layered guitar work, the song sounds compact and worldwide at the same time. The sound is just catastrophically huge. The drums are very dark and work with the bass very well, it's the progressive rock structure in it's entirely, just with pop indications and a high pitched delayed vocal. It's an excellent opening to the album.

Lyrical themes are far darker and personal on this album. The second track 'Spiteful Intervention' is magnificent in terms of lyrical flow and vocal structure. Kevin's vocals are outstanding here, he goes through stages of high pitched vocals, deep vocals, desperate vocals and achingly beautiful rhythmic harmonies. The lyrics stick as his voice directs the song,"I spend my waking hours, haunting my own life". The pure imagery created outweighs the actual musical content from the gleeful instrumental, "All I have is asthmatic energy". Vocal samples have been looped and heavily effected to create a synthetic dark atmosphere during the pre-chorus. His vocals are extremely noticeable on this song, they;re a real stand out and the lyrics work extremely well with the aforementioned instrumental. The strings shine bright along with the rapid drumming and heavy bass. This is a real standout track on the album and personally, it's my favourite from this album and from what I've heard so far, my favourite from January 2012.

'Dour Percentafe' keeps that same melancholy sound, with a greater emphasis on structure. This song has an impressive chorus which is extremely uplifting and has heavily effected vocals. Kevin sounds like David Bowie throughout the track. It's that glam rock feel and 80's pop like drumming which gives this song a nostalgic feel. 'We Will Commit Wolf Murder' is far more darker than the previous two tracks. it has a flowing, experimental drumming pattern with obscure bass playing on the right side. This song uses dynamics to great effect, with a progressive synthetic feel towards the breakdowns and the vocals are obscured by the experimental drumming. The back half is far more Melody than the first with melodic strings entering and piano closing the track with great effect. After a short while the song actually enters into a completely different musical style, much like the days of King Crimson. Heavy bass enters and a sticking compact sound flows with the feminine vocals which sound very 90's club-esque.

The poetic 'Malefic Dowery' brings a personal, self hatred lyrical love theme, "Love is not a debtor as prison, you don't have to serve a sentence to pay back what you've been given". Then the following verse, "Now I live in fear of your schizophrenic genius It's a tempestuous despot  That I can't seem to propitiate". The imagery is purely fanatical. This is the reason why Of Montreal are loved by so many, they create such sonic instrumental sounds, but behind the scenes, behind those swirling flute sounds we hear these intelligent, amazing lyrics. it's something you wont hear on BBC Radio 2 at four in the afternoon, that's for sure. This song has magnificent piano which is reverbed to give it that eerie feel. The whole track is one beautiful look back and easy listening-esque piece of baroque.

It's not long before the experimental drones and psychedelic subsonic textures enter. With the back half fast approaching, it's only common and knowledgeable that the level of 'pop' would drop catastrophically. The opening three minutes of 'Ye, Renew The Plaintiff' contain poppy beats with a happier vocal before descending into a prog fuelled adventure of vocal melodies and sample loops working alongside funky bass and synthesizers. The back half is far darker and the orchestral instrumentation is reminiscent of 60's horror movie soundtracks. The dark, left to right flow of string jabs and twinkling synthesizers give the track an eerie feel among the ever present Indie drum beat and bass.

We hear a further glam rock instrumental with the arpeggio fuelled 'Wintered Debts'. The lyrics are again self-hating and extremely personal. Kevin's vocals are tired and depressive. The reverberated piano adds that Bowie feel. The vocal harmonies improve as the trick brightens up with a layered vocal segment and tremendous synthetic section which sounds like a 60's northern soul come down session. The lyrics are again incredibly personal, "All my life I've been betrayed by my mothers religion". It's a recurring theme for the album and it's not the first time darker lyrical themes have taken charge of Of Montreal musical output. The well received and by fare most Of Montreal album, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, had dark, hatred and painful lyrical topics. 

The 13 minute ending called 'Authentic Pyrrhic Remission', begins with a dance like beat with a no-wave style. Vocal harmonies and childish 'la la la la' harmonies are the focus here. Kevin the begins with a short vocal segment before the track turns experimental and destroys all modern structural ideas with obscure industrial instruments and scary string work which plays deep with synthesizer melodies. This last for several minutes before the final, three minutes of piano. This is were Kevin sings his heart out for the last time, looking back and looking down. It has lots of deep lyrics about being in 'exile' and such. It's a very saddening album which sums up the album perfectly.

This album is filled with tasteful synthesizer hooks and vocal loops. Electric and acoustic guitar is rarely used, when it is, it's minimal. The electronic aspects are present and the drums are both experimental and mainstream-esque. Progressive rock shines through on the opening track and a darker lyrical theme allows the more personal and melodic side of Kevin to shine through the twee instrumentals. it's certainly an album to look out for on the end of year lists.


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