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Head Trip Pop

Olivia Tremor Control
Black Foliage Volume One

As part of the Elephant 6 collective (along with groups like Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power, and the Music Tapes, Olivia Tremor Control is one of those slightly wacky groups who favor lots and lots of obscure instruments, odd lyrics and concept albums over scoring a radio hit. Of course, that's not to say that they can't write damn catchy songs, which are abundant on this 27-song effort that spans nearly 70 minutes.

Even saying that the group favors obscure instruments might be sort of misleading, as not only do they favor all kinds of different instruments, but just about every other sound or noise you could think of as well. In fact, if you deconstructed the different tracks on this album and seperated every single instrument, sound effect, and little noise, you might find yourself in quite a heap of cataloging trouble. While the individual songs are fairly standard in their arrangement (at least in terms of experimental pop music), the group never lets a dull moment go by and in between most songs lay little "interludes" of sorts that bridge everything together. It's like a gigantic sound collage with some songs thrown in that sound like a strange cross between old Beatles, a smidge of the less poppy Beach Boys and a dab of Mercury Rev.

Basically, it's a smorgasboard and your interest level in the disc will mainly depend on how much you care for weird little filler bits and lots of noodling. The opening couple tracks of the disc give you a good taste of what's to come from the release (although things tend to get even more drawn-out and weird toward the second half of the release) with a 25 second intro track of distorted, swirling keyboards before the second track "A Peculiar Noise Called 'Train Director'" drops into one of those fuzzed-out pop tracks with enough little sound effects and random noises to make it nearly burst at the seams. The third "track" is really just a couple more seconds of noise before the group goes into yet another nice little sing-along number with xylophones and the whole bit. Before the next actual song kicks off at track number 8 (the awesome "A Sleepy Company"), the album drifts through 3 more mini-bits of soundscape.

Really, that's about the pace for the record until the latter third or so. The group will lull off with several tracks of swirling noise and sound tomfoolery before they pull it together for a track of pop bliss. Usually, they drop right back off into the soundscapes again for awhile. It's sort of a bi-polar album of sorts, as it probably could have been cut down a lot in length and made into a concise gem of an album, but then you'd lose the odd atmosphere of the rest (which will either drive you nuts or space you out). If you know what you're getting into, it's a pretty decent disc, otherwise you might want to stay with something a little more focused.

Rating: 6.25