Formed in 1992 in Athens Georgia. Olivia Tremor Control is the standout band from The Elephant 6 label which mostly consists of Lo-Fi bands including bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Apples in Stereo. They released their first single California Demise in 1995 then their first full length album Dusk at Cubist Castle in 1996. Black Foliage: Animation Music was their last album and in 2001 the band Circulatory System was formed with a slight change in the original OTC lineup.
My favorite band of this century so far, I cannot say enough good things about this band. I would put them in the league of melody masters The Beatles and the Beach Boys. The comparisons between them are very common. Overall Oliva Tremor Control is a much more complex group than most 60’s pop groups but their sound just fits the feeling form that time. The horns in “Hideway" to the psychedelic sounds in Black Foliage(Itself) are proof of the nostalgic feel of this album.
The whole idea for this album is hard one to explain but I’ll explain it the best I can The Idea for this album started when a the guitar part on the song Black Foliage (Itself) were used in a series of short animation songs stemming off the original song. As time went on more and more sound got added to the animation songs and other songs began to unfold creating more and more material until the album was complete.
It is quite easy to get lost listening to this album. Although the album is divided into 4 sides it still takes quite a few listens to easily find your way around the CD. Repeated listening is a must before you cast judgment.
Thanks to the Elephant 6 orchestra countless instruments many of which of I’ve never heard of are everywhere on this record. Also some of the songs on are Pro Tools based collages. Actually I would consider only 14 tracks on this album to be developed songs.
This is a very hard album to rate as there are so many noise tracks and those are quite hard to rate because they aren’t really songs. The album also changes direction a lot. Allmusic.com said it best with “There are at least enough ideas for five albums here." and ‘It's an imploding masterpiece, a work teetering on the cliff's edge between genius and madness."
What this album means is completely up to your interpretation. For me it’s a childlike and scary collection of nostalgic songs. If another person did a review of this album it would probably be quite different.
Track by Track
Just as the title says this is the intro track for this album. It's a short instrumental of Theremins; being a Theremin player myself I was impressed it could be played that way Perfect buildup for the next song and great opener
2. Peculiar Noise Called "Train Director"
The song will get you sucked in right away it may seem simple but you won't realize how much is actually going on unless you are paying real close attention to it. It has a very childlike charm that instantly puts me into a good mood. Plus the chorus is just magical.
I'm not sure how I feel about these tracks since they weren't on the original burned copy I got. I�m so used to having Peculiar Noise Called "Train Director" go straight into Hideway. Its four seconds of so called animation music with computer like noises.
Another mood lifter and great song. The horns capture a great feeling that reminds me of the Beatles. Throughout the song more and more acoustic guitars are added 10 total, giving it a very full sound. I love the organ solo on this song very simple but great tone.
5. Black Foliage: Amination 1
This song is an instrumental based on a cool groove (picture an elephant walking). There are so many different sounds going around it's very hard to keep track of. Great interlude
Continued from the last song. More bleeps and bops are heard plus some extra radio noises.
7. Sky Is a Harpsichord Canvas
A four second chord that's hard to describe, kind of creepy
8. Sleepy Company
Another solid track, this is when the album becomes a little more eerie. The vocals on this song are great; they take a more center role on this song. At 1:15 the short delayed synth chord before the cello and violin always amazes me.
9. Grass Canons
This song has a very outside feel for me. The vocals have great symbolism "what if we wore our stripes in the sky." Great bell section and drumming. There is also a cool breakdown with phased out drums.
10. New Day
I can understand why they put this album into 4 sides because with this song you call tell they are going in a new direction. This song is very up-tempo and probably the most poppy song on the record.
Collage of past and future melodies to come, where some of the melodies come from still confuses me sometimes and I can see how this could make someone lost
12. Black Foliage (Animation 2)
Opens with drums that give the effect like they are popping. The concertina playing in the background gives a trance feeling. One of times where the interlude makes a successful anticipation for the next song.
13. I Have Been Floated
Opens on a fuzz guitar opening similar to Radioheads Hunting Bears then flows right into a powerful chorus. The violin and piano parts are rather funky and the flow from quiet to loud is flawless. Overall great dynamics.
14. Paranormal Echoes
I always enjoy The Lo-Fi beginning with radio parts that always get stuck in my head. This song is very similar to the last song where the songs changes flawlessly. Almost like this is a combination of two songs. The chorus is a very emotional one that makes me fell quite mellow along with the bride.
15. Black Foliage (Animation 3)
Similar to the other Black Foliages, similar Drums and melody
16. Place We Have Been To
This song wouldn't be very out of place on their last album Dusk At Cubist Castle they even make reference to it. The song title is very appropriate for this song. The harp strum at the beginning is so cheerful. Solid faster song with a great Lo-Fi bridge.
17. Black Foliage (Itself)
This is the song this album is based on. It lives up to the place of title track. The cellos are run through a variable oscillator; it's unlike anything I've ever heard. You can hear parts of this song in other Black Foliage songs. This would have been a huge hit in the psychedelic era.
18. Sylvan Screen
Made from sounds gathered from a tip to Sweden. Olivia Tremor Control is masters at Pro tools.
19. Bark and Below
A ten minute pro tools song with various sounds. The occasional cool effect makes it a worthwhile listen. Sometimes I'm not in the mood to listen to all of it so this is the most likely track for me to skip.
20. Black Foliage (Animation 4)
Great concertina and drum song, I wake up with this in my head a lot. Half way through it changes to a cool vocal harmony. One of the better animation songs.
21. California Demise, Pt. 3
This is an extension onto the other two parts that were early singles. This song shows how much they have progressed from that.
22. Looking for Quiet Seeds 3:13
Another great addition to the album. The snare drumming is a highlight of this song. Keep things moving toward the end of the end of the album.
23. Combinations :11
Fades right into Mystery.
24. Mystery 3:25
One of the sadder songs on the album it gives me childish feelings like the most of the songs. "I Know it's hard to believe in something you can't see" I still not sure about the meaning of this line, catchy never the less. The orchestra section at the end touches me in an unexplained way.
25. Another Set of Bees in the Museum 3:07
Continues the sad drone theme. Strategically placed skips make this song more interesting. There are also some funky breakdowns with stringed instruments worth mention.
26. Black Foliage (Animation 5) 2:08
The Final animation music and there's a banjo this time. Adds a nice touch to the mellow last side.
27. Hilltop Procession (Momentum Gaining) 3:21
Fun acoustic guitar and sing along lyrics. I love the solo for this song, the delayed effect is classic. It's a nice ending to the album that will be stuck in your head for a long time.
Peculiar Noise Called "Train Director"
I Have Been Floated
California Demise, Pt. 3
Black Foliage (Itself)
One of my all time favorite albums from a very unique band. I wish more people knew about them and with that said I would highly recommend it to pretty much anyone.