Release Date: Apr 26, 2011
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Click to listen to Of Montreal's thecontrollersphere Few would argue that Of Montreal leader Kevin Barnes lost his freakiness in the feverish pursuit of soul-rock nirvana, but this five-track EP of outtakes from last year's False Priest nevertheless hedges his bets. Beginning and ending with extreme noise, it further explores that album's themes of sexuality, religion, and the manmade gap between. Chaotic opening track "Black Lion Massacre" offers a nightmarish fantasy of ritual sacrifice, then "Flunkt Sass vs the Root Plume" downshifts into psychedelic Pink Floyd-ian ooze.
It might seem strange for Of Montreal to deem any of their material as too weird, but that seems to be the case with thecontrollersphere, a nifty little EP that compiles songs too spiky to fit on last year’s False Priest. The five tracks collected here are a jumble, somewhat hastily thrown together, but also provide a window onto the stylistic borders of the band’s sound. This catchall effort arrives partially to promote the new book by lead singer Kevin Barnes’s brother, David Barnes, who’s designed all of the band’s album art to date, including the fabulously strange collage on display here.
At the end of "Faberge Falls For Shuggie", a song from Of Montreal's excellent 2007 album Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Kevin Barnes sings a string of phrases that would become the titles of his next three releases: Skeletal Lamping, False Priest, and now, thecontrollersphere. This suggests a thematic connection between these records, or at least some kind of grand plan. If this unorthodox way of announcing future projects is indeed a meaningful thing, it may also be significant that, whereas Skeletal Lamping and False Priest arrived as full-length works complete with their own distinct quirks and visual iconography, thecontrollersphere is a set of leftovers from the False Priest sessions.
"Skeletal lamping/The controller sphere/False priest” declared Kevin Barnes in 2007, for reasons best known to himself. That all major Of Montreal releases subsequent to Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? have taken their name from one of those non-sequiturs may or may not be significant in the greater scheme of things. But as thecontrollersphere EP finally hoovers up the middle part of the phrase, you’d be hard-pressed to make a robust case for Barnes having escaped Hissing Fauna…’s gravity in the years subsequent to its release.
Made up of songs written and recorded, but not used, for their previous album, False Priest, Of Montreal’s thecontrollersphere EP sounds exactly like what it is: a closet-cleaning exercise. While all of the songs would have fit perfectly well within the confines of the album, the album turned out just fine without them. The tracks range from the thundering and robotic "Black Lion Massacre" to the outer space Bowie-folk of the unfortunately titled "Flunkt Sass vs the Root Flume," the slick robo-funk sex jam "L'Age d'Or," and the skittering rocker "Slave Translator.
In his 15-year run under the Of Montreal moniker, Kevin Barnes has wholeheartedly embraced artistic reinvention and development, traversing a wide swath of terrain that has seen his indie pop band delve into everything from vaudeville and twee to funk and glam rock. Arguably one of the most colorful characters in modern music, Barnes has assumed a chameleonic ability to constantly alter the trajectory of his aesthetic impulses; one minute he’s channeling the sexual provocations of Prince, the next it’s Syd Barrett-inspired psychedelia. It’s never been easy listening, but it also rarely fails to be entertainment of the highest order; sights and sounds as blissfully erratic as they are naively theatrical.