The Olivia Tremor Control
Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume 1


5.0
classic

Review

by J. Ponton EMERITUS
August 3rd, 2010 | 191 replies | 14,797 views


Release Date: 1999 | Tracklist

Review Summary: When you pass the black foliage / Imagine an eternity wrapped in silver sound

Screw your charts, fellow music listeners, hallowed music critics, and especially that pivotal/revolted Pitchfork herd. Because despite what you grew up being told about one Elephant 6 branch The Olivia Tremor Control (OTC), despite which of their two proper full-lengths is said to be better than the other, the truth has been misconstrued. That’s right. You heard me: Lies! Sure, I’ll give and say that the bigger brother with the legitimate shot at the big leagues, Music from the Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle, made the big impact in 1996, if you must call it that: “Oh my God, psychedelic pop, 60s style, with krautrock electric experimentation!” and all that fuss and business, whatever – but come on now:

What about the cunning, cynical antics of the younger sibling with the widespread vision and the level-headed playing field of skills? Did they really listen to Dusk at Cubist Castle’s 1999 follow-up? Did they try to look past the shadow of its brother enshrouding it, obscuring its intricacies, leading the herd astray, essentially garnering for it the “oh it’s just that other album” tag by that one legendary Elephant 6 band? Good Lord, did anyone actually give an honest, thorough chance to Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One? A few did, I’ll give, but not enough.

Not enough at all. OTC masterminds, Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart, landed on a winning combination with Dusk at Cubist Castle in the mid 90s; that’s not something I wish to argue against. However, their implementation of that combination of sunny-sweet Brian Wilson diddies and krautrock late hours was flawed, sadly. Like the first half of their debut played out like a grade-A 60s pop album, you know – practically flawless, getting down to it. But OTC ran a little too far to the left once the "Green Typewriters” suite entered in on the twelve track. The band lost us, really, and a lack of self-control kept the Georgia-born outfit from pulling everything together for a unified vision. The whole of Dusk at Cubist Castle, psychedelic and damn euphoric as it may have been, was lopsided.

Black Foliage isn’t this way. It’s the sound of a band that’s confident, that’s acknowledged that “hey, we can actually throw this stuff together and make it work,” and can even make it better sounding the next time around, too. On closer inspection, this is exactly what the album is: Dusk at Cubist Castle on a tighter running schedule; the length of the twenty-five-track-plus monster albums are about the same, but everything here feels smooth, purposeful, and most importantly, not like it’s just an experiment. Black Foliage is the clear stepping stone from Dusk at Cubist Castle to the OTC-continuation project that would come in 2001, Circulatory System. The best of both worlds, actually: a gelled psychedelic experience that seemingly runs through your ears like liquid (Circulatory System), while remaining confidently on earth with memorable melodies (the first half of Dusk at Cubist Castle).

Yeah, it’s perfect. There’s none of this complete jumping to experimental electronics, field recording escapades, or wtf moments for half of the album on Black Foliage. Sure, OTC may take a breather and stick a mic in the ground, recording, perhaps, everything in the denouement of the experience with “The Bark and Below It”, but the transition, to and out of, the band’s perfectly portioned electronics/whatever instruments and poppy melodies/harmonies conglomerate feels sublime. Each whole track this time around on Black Foliage is once again a winner, with obvious highlights “California Demise”, “I Have Been Floated”, “Black Foliage (Itself)”, and more fitting along with OTC’s best (practically the whole of the first half of Dusk at Cubist Castle).

As if you didn’t have enough of a reason to go back and revisit Black Foliage, especially if you are already a fan of OTC’s debut and the work of Circulatory System, you can even continue on the scavenger hunt to unravel Doss and Hart’s daunting lyrical concept, a mystery that runs through the fabric of many of their projects, individual and together, before and since Black Foliage’s creation. According to the masterminds themselves, this album takes, at least, fifty listens to fully absorb, and being twenty-seven tracks long and around seventy minutes in length, it’s easy to see why. But on another note, the album flows so well together that it requires you to repeatedly go back as, bar a nice set of headphones and a quiet room, you’re bound to miss something on your many listens to Black Foliage.

So, yeah, just humor the frontmen and me, please. It’s worth a shot, and who knows? Maybe you’ll have a new favorite OTC album at the end of the day. If not, maybe you will at least enjoy Black Foliage more for what it is: the matured sound from a band that had just then started to know what they were doing. It’s got everything that made Dusk at Cubist Castle awesome, minus the fat, and hey, is all knit together with a tighter production, too. I don’t know; I’d just hate to see you be one of those listeners that passes it over just because it didn’t do the big things first like its older brother did, or because someone just told you to skip it. OTC clearly stepped up to the challenge and didn’t let us down with a lackluster follow-up, you see, and well, look what happens: Already many have past their efforts off for their next RYM cave-digging splurge. They’re obviously missing out, so don’t be like them, please. Screw the herd and just try again.



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user ratings (130)
Chart.
4
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Well_Respected_Man (5)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Ponton
Emeritus
August 3rd 2010



5784 Comments


just felt like reviewing this

awesome album > Dusk at Cubist Castle

SoapySoap
August 3rd 2010



865 Comments


I've only heard ..Dusk At Cubist Castle. I guess I should check this out too.

robin
Emeritus
August 3rd 2010



4241 Comments


awesome.

but yeah. i wish i could love this.

Ponton
Emeritus
August 3rd 2010



5784 Comments


uggg tuna why

Romulus
August 3rd 2010



8411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I feel like this is another Observer 5 that I need. Pos'd, will get on it.

Ponton
Emeritus
August 3rd 2010



5784 Comments


Thanks rom, you will probably either love this or hate it, I think. Give Dusk a shot too for sure.

EVedder27
August 3rd 2010



6088 Comments


fantastic review

Crowe
August 3rd 2010



435 Comments


am i banned?

edit: praise god. this better be better than nightmare because you're gonna get the shit beat out of you if it's not.

AggravatedYeti
August 3rd 2010



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice nice review
though I'm still partial to Cubist Castle this album rules.

Ponton
Emeritus
August 3rd 2010



5784 Comments


cheers guys

glad you like it yeti, used to prefer castle too

SeaAnemone
August 3rd 2010



19729 Comments


so sorry Jared... we've been over this. I understand even more why you like this after reading, but it's just still all... errrrr

I promise to keep giving it tries though

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation

Ponton
Emeritus
August 3rd 2010



5784 Comments


ill forgive you eventually, but i understand where you're coming from. If the mix of stuff they do just doesn't work with you, well that's that.

plane
Staff Reviewer
September 19th 2010



6085 Comments


Best Elephant 6 band surely

liledman
September 19th 2010



3826 Comments


big call there. though i am yet to hear this, dusk at cubist castle is good. might have to check this out.

demigod!
February 11th 2011



43888 Comments


Everyone tells me this is the best thing ever so I'm listening to it and it's pretty bizarre so far but in a good way

Digging: Black Flag - My War

Romulus
February 11th 2011



8411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

still need to give this a listen

Ponton
Emeritus
February 28th 2011



5784 Comments


been so long

such a trip

Romulus
February 28th 2011



8411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

jared i know there's already an answer to this question at the top of this page but speaking from several months later is something i would love?

Ponton
Emeritus
February 28th 2011



5784 Comments


i see you loving this rom or completely hating it.

dont look for individual highlights here. just let the album guide along and it will implant its melodies overtime

Romulus
February 28th 2011



8411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sounds good, i'll get on it for real this time and keep you updated



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