The Olivia Tremor Control.....

Roll the name around your mind a while and try to imagine what they sound like, and whatever you come up with I guarantee you'll be way off the mark and yet remarkably close at one and the same time, because here we have a band so startlingly diverse, brilliantly imaginative and at once satisfyingly traditional that they are quite capable of being all things to all people. Traditional in that their strongest suits are their enchanting harmony singing, finely wrought songwriting and prominently Sixties-ish pop sensibility which borders on genius; diverse because quite apart from their take on the psychedelic pop legacy passed down from the Beatles, filtered through the likes of the Green Pajamas and fractured into a million enticingly hallucinatory fragments by those masters of the 90s half-track soundbite Guided By Voices, the Olivia Tremor Control also have a so far unreleased, and largely unrecorded, history of ambient electronic pieces and experimental guitar surfing under their belts; and imaginative because the band pay a surprising amount of attention to detail given that we're talking shoestring psychedelia here. And yet even with four-track production the Olivia Tremor Control are full of instrumental surprises.

otc # 4 The band consist of Bill Doss, Will Hart, Eric (the Exploding Nosh) and Mowgli, all of whom are based in Athens, Georgia. 'California Demise' is the title of their debut 7" EP, originally released on the Elephant 6 collective and then re-pressed by Matt Hanks at Sunday Driver Records after, Will tells me, they ran out of money for the sleeves. "Elephant 6 is a group of friends which aims to put innovative quality entertainment into a world which doesn't apparently known much about such things. It's music, it's film, it's art and it's ideas. It's a collective vision. Actually, there's more than six of us now. The groups which use the logo include, aside from ourselves, The Apples (In Stereo), Neutral Milk Hotel, Secret Square and The Clay Bears."

The unerringly catchy title song of the Olivia Tremor Control's debut EP picks itself up, takes a trip to the water closet and stumbles, gloriously stoned, to a blurry conclusion in a melee of backwards guitars and dreamy vocals on the B-side. Meanwhile the band are already launching into the deftly psychedelic 'A Sunshine Fix', with trumpet, miscellaneous keyboards and a prominent bass-line all fixing themselves a place in the pop firmament before the wonderful fade-out, and the record ends with the magnificently Lennon-esque 'Fireplace', the lid crashing down on the piano with a final, inescapably dazzling flourish.

otc # 5
otc # 2
The OTC's 'Giant Day' 7" EP released by Drug Racer (an American/English co-operative) is, if anything, even more representative of the their astonishing range of sounds, from the dark, blurry pop sentiency of 'Shaving Spiders' to the quintessentially complex psychedelia of 'The Princess Turns The Key To Cubist Castle' (curtain calls part 1, 2 and, over on the other side, part 3). 'I'm Not Feeling Human' is one of the band's more accessible tunes, although close analysis of the lyrics, in which the various mineral and vegetable states of the singer's psych are intoned against a Beach Boys-inspired harmony vocal, reveals depths which the casual listener might not wish to plumb. The record closes with every psychedelic filigree in the production department's 60s handbook well to the fore in a number entitled 'The Giant Day - Dusk', a reference to the full title of the record which is (takes deep breath) 'The Giant Day Prelude to Music from the Unrealized Film Dusk at Cubist Castle'.

The six songs on the record tell the story of the Giant Day, which is in itself only the beginning of the Cubist Castle concept. Oh dear, that dread word "concept", so redolent of pompous 70s progressive rock bands who wrote 'suites' rather than songs because they were incapable of coming up with a decent chorus. Fear not though, dear reader; in the capable hands of the Olivia Tremor Control even conceptual works are never quite what they seem. Indeed, it's the band themselves that are the concept here and not so much the music. 'Dusk At Cubist Castle' is, as the Sunday name suggests, a film script ("we'll finish the movie when we have the money" - where've I heard that one before?), the soundtrack to which amounts to two LPs worth of material which are coming out on Flydaddy Records out of Seattle home too of the very wonderful Cardinal, a coincidence that's too good simply brush under the carpet. So we'll ignore it gracefully and move on.

otc # 3
otc # 6
"If you buy the LP records you'll get all the 'Dusk At Cubist Castle' pop songs, plus some of the Olivia Mind Control Method dream sequences and a surprise. The CD will contain all the songs since the format's longer, and the first 2,000 will have the dream sequences as an extra CD so you can finally get a decent night's sleep. The songs will introduce the characters and the plot of 'Dusk At Cubist Castle' and the dream sequences are actual dreams of time-frame happenings from people in the film, for instance Jacqueline and Olivia. We're hoping Yoko Ono will make a guest appearance."

And the 'Olivia Mind
Control Method'?

"Well, first there's the songs in the sense of a classic short-attention span pop song with lyrics and so-on, but then there's the Olivia Mind Control Method which is basically instrumental material that we're going to refer to as experimental. There's also some very mellow atmospheric field recordings that reflect our interest in music that takes you somewhere in the longer term as opposed to the two and a half minutes. Our philosophy of recording is simply to try everything and experiment as much as possible: turn it backwards, twist it, put it under water, cut it up, make it beautiful, record it from across the street, speed it up when it should be slowed. There are many facets of recording (as in life), and we've only just begun to explore them."

otc # 7
otc # 8 Indeed. Even as I write this, the band are off to record their first full-length LP at the Elephant Six Recording Company in Denver, Colorado along with The Apples (in Stereo) and Neutral Milk Hotel. The results, I can promise you, will be refreshingly different and unbelievably beautiful.

Written, produced and directed by Phil McMullen, © Ptolemaic Terrascope January, 1996.

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