Olivia Tremor Control | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Olivia Tremor Control 

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OLIVIA TREMOR CONTROL

With a trio of transcendent albums--In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, Tone Soul Evolution by the Apples in Stereo, and Music From the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle by Olivia Tremor Control--the group of musical friends known as the Elephant 6 collective has established itself as the great white hope of American indie pop. And of the three bands, OTC is the most adventurous, filtering its inspired if derivative 60s songcraft through sonic dreamscapes that rival anything coming out of the hip-hop nation. Black Foliage (Flydaddy), the band's second album, draws on sources as disparate as the Beach Boys, Big Black, Frank Zappa, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Rene Magritte to fashion a psychedelic collage of sugary pop hooks, panoramic instrumentation, and bizarre bedroom-studio noise. The first song, "A Familiar Noise Called 'Train Director,'" gives a good taste of OTC's basic recipe: a jaunty tune that wouldn't sound out of place on the Kinks' Something Else is delivered sotto voce, glazed with close harmonies and decorated with loping Sgt. Pepper's bass lines, jangling electric guitar, keyboards, xylophone, phase shifts, tape smears, and electronic twittering before it breaks up into a brass improvisation featuring saxophone, trumpet, and tuba. The sprawling, 69-minute album is denser yet more spatially balanced than Dusk at Cubist Castle: while the first record began as warped 60s pop and then made an audacious left turn into musique concrete, the new record's aural tomfoolery is folded into the songs, suggesting a carefully orchestrated version of the Beatles' more casual studio wankery ("Baby You're a Rich Man," "Only a Northern Song"). For most young bands, the legacy of the 60s has become a deadweight, but Olivia Tremor Control has discovered the solution--quit struggling, sink to the bottom, and explore the ocean floor. Friday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 773-525-6620. J.R. JONES

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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