Photos courtesy of David Wajsfelner
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of Montreal, or Kevin Barnes to be more accurate, has existed musically for over a decade at this point, but their true identity began to take form around their fifth or sixth album, depending on your opinion of the two. Barnes has always remained at the forefront of this project, and whether he is accompanied by a full backing band or no one at all, his catalogue as of the last few years has involved massive production value paired with a thick rainforest of instrumentation that knows no limits. Psychedelia is a common misnomer and only works at a superficial base, but of Montreal has continued to expand in sound and style so that they defy being pigeonholed in a genre.
Of all the strong points from this album to pick from, the most important to start off with would be the gigantic and impressive sound that Kevin and company continue to produce album after album. It seems habitual at this point in their career, and it definitely is, but this time around, the length and heightened complexity of the songs open up new musical spaces for of Montreal to explore and conquer. The bar of timbre on this LP is set so high at the explosion that occurs when “Gelid Ascent” comes into its own, and from then on it soars to new elevations. Oddly enough, other than sounding so grandiose and gigantic, the opener features the least amount of orchestration.
Effects are used profusely on guitars and vocals, which should come as no surprise. The centerpieces of nearly every song stem from Barnes providing his own backing choruses as usual by layering his voice. Waves of these appear most frequently in “Dour Percentage,” a clearcut Hall And Oates-influenced jam. It’s great to hear them cover this sort of specific ground. of Montreal has delved into their share of funk and groove beats as of recent, but to emulate and put an intense spin on icons such as those two seems like something that should be done more often. This first single sounds like “I Can’t Go For That” on steroids.
Paralytic Stalks dips its feet into funkiness once more on “We Will Commit Wolf Murder,” but the all-encompassing feel for this album is darker than most of Barnes’s work. Catharsis is the name of the game, as Kevin is never without purging his feelings at every waking moment. One of the most thought-provoking lyrics that catches the ear lies within “Spiteful Intervention”: “I made the one I love start crying tonight, and it felt good!” He reveals this with a guilty-as-charged admittance that raises many questions about his intentions of said relationship. Much of the choice of words here tends to volley between spite, mentioned previously, and swoon, “You’re the only beauty I don’t wanna strangle.”
It is near impossible to ignore the glitchy and wasted “Exorcismic Breeding Knife,” which Kevin Barnes obviously intends to represent as some cacophonous sound metaphor for the chaos that dwells in his head. However, the nearly-eight minute track bores and can be described as the computer glitch version of “Revolution 9.” Apart from that, the remaining eight songs all have the members working at top capacity. They perform their asses off, and there’s rarely a dull moment. The only recurring obstacle can be attributed to Kevin’s propensity for fitting way too many verbose and trivial lyrics into one verse line. This problem never holds back a song, but it rather can briefly take away from one’s flow. Of course, the flow is then restored with haste.
Paralytic Stalks is surely a milestone both emotionally and production-wise for the group. This album satisfies on both lyrical and instrumental levels, as Kevin Barnes has written his heart’s deepest confessions on paper and the band as a whole has arranged some insanely busy songs. of Montreal has proved yet again that their creativity gauge has not run dry, and the ideas are still bouncing.
Of Montreal is an amazing band. So amazing that at one point in my life, I “ghost-rode” my whip down the street to “St. Exquisite’s Confessions”. My girlfriend thought I was crazy, but you try to sit still while listening to their music.
After you get to “L’age D’or” you will start thinking about “Skeletal Lamping” b-sides. This is an appropriate reaction because this EP was constructed after their last album “False Priest” and with the same stylings as “Lamping”. There is a comfortable midpoint in the album where you get to hear Of Montreal doing what they have been doing for a long time – grooving to their disco balls, but without the balls. “Flunkt” sounds like a re-visioning of “Happiness is a Warm Gun”, which is a compliment. It is a spacey tune. If you close your eyes, you will think you’re listening to The Flaming Lips.
This EP isn’t impressive, and really doesn’t offer anything special. The beginning and end tracks of the EP contain a synthesized voice. Interesting lyrics, but the atmosphere sucked the Of Montreal from the album. The final track, “Slave Translator”, starts really funky and fun only to dive back into that dark swamp of drone noise.
This EP is a lot less sexual than their previous material. Fans have hinted at a departure from past lyrical content, but the fact that this was connected to “False Priest” had me doubt it as a representation of that. It is an EP that contains too many noisy drone moments to suffocate the mood. I can’t wait for Of Montreal to release a new record, but this just didn’t add any hype to my palette and disappeared into nothingness after a listen or two. Did I just hear Of Montreal? Yeah, I did. Did it make me want to jump out of my car or laugh with my tongue resting firmly in my cheek? None of that either. Alas, we wait for their LP with anticipation. I’m neutral on this one.