Release Date: Mar 9, 2018
Record label: Polyvinyl
Of all of the subjects in modern day society to write an album about, the political discourse of the last 18 months has been one of the most fruitful. Artists on both sides of the political aisle— mostly on the left, but some on the right as well— have had pieces to say about the increasing popularity of right wing politics in the western world since 2016. As with the growth of distrust for the political classes, the growth of media distrust has also been a feature of the last few years, especially amidst stories of easily manipulated social media feeds and big money interests in the news industry.
Did you hear the one about how reality is an illusion and what we think of as "human life" and "the universe" are just lines of code in some superior being's cosmic computer simulation? Although it has the ring of stoner mysticism, simulated reality is an actual theory that scientists and philosophers have seriously entertained. At a debate on the subject a couple of years ago, moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson confessed, "It is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just a creation of some other entity for their entertainment. " The theory gained currency, for obvious reasons, after Brexit, the 2016 election, and the odd best picture mix-up at last year's Oscars.
Being an Of Montreal fan can be exhausting. Kevin Barnes and his cast of collaborators release albums at a prolific pace, each of them featuring colourful cover illustrations and track lists full of insufferably verbose titles. This can make it difficult to distinguish one album from the next, but thankfully, the music on White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood proves to be much more memorable than its branding. The album's intricate electro-funk arrangements find Barnes operating within his wheelhouse, with the twist here being that there are only six tracks, all of them with lengthy runtimes and structures that resemble suites rather than traditional pop songs.
Of Montreal's 15th studio LP, White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood follows an eclectic but synth-friendly album, Innocence Reaches, by nearly two years. Before that, 2015's Aureate Gloom took musical influence from '70s New York punk. Project leader Kevin Barnes continues a sudden but enthusiastic trend toward more synths here, on an album that was inspired by the '80s phenomenon of releasing extended dance mixes of pop singles, which one would only hear played in clubs.
Love and paranoia go hand in hand for singer-songwriter Kevin Barnes on Of Montreal's White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood. The Athens, Georgia-based musician has often paired verbose examination of his own mental health with oblique psychedelic pop, and he's cited the creative process as a means for coping with his depression, most directly on 2012's exhausting Paralytic Stalks. Unease with our increasingly digital world has gradually worked its way into Barnes's songwriting in recent years as well, and White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood cranks up his fear of a simulated reality to Philip K.
A decade ago of Montreal were poised to take over the world. Or at the very least they were poised to achieve medium success and graduate to 3,000-seater theatres on a more permanent basis than their semi-infamous 2008 gig at New York Roseland Ballroom, which climaxed in lead singer Kevin Barnes riding a horse on stage for some reason. Exactly why we're now in a position in which the band are releasing their fifteenth album White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood to almost zero fanfare (there isn't even a UK publicist) is probably both complicated and very simple.
Is Kevin Barnes a man out of time or just someone wearing a broken watch? The of Montreal bandleader has spent the majority of his shapeshifting project’s 21-year existence staying off-trend, whether intentionally or incidentally. Emerging from the '60s-redolent psychedelia of Athens’ Elephant 6 collective, of Montreal’s early work emphasized small-scale twee and sunny psychedelic pop as indie’s biggest acts favored darker , louder , and occasionally more complicated sounds. His moment of clairvoyance came with the 2007 masterpiece Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? , a ( literally ) nakedly personal record that anticipated indie’s collision with melodic dance music by a few years.