of Montreal – Daughter Of Cloud (Polyvinyl Records/ October 23 2012)
By Christopher Oliver
of Montreal follow February’s release Paralytic Stalks with a new rarities compilation, Daughter of Cloud. The 17-track effort comprises unreleased tracks and rarities recorded between 2007 and 2012. The entire compilation will be released digitally, on CD, cyan-colored double LP and as a limited edition purple cassette.
As a collection of songs spanning of Montreal’s career that have not seen the light of day until now, it may be that this is really collectors fare for the die hard fans only. Truthfully, I hadn’t ever heard a full record of theirs until now. Sadly, I can’t say that I would ever choose to again. The record skips and jumps in its bizarre eclectic, even spanning psych freak-out moments that wouldn’t be amiss in downtown New York in the mid-80s. That’s not to say however, in a good way. Perhaps the more wishfully forgotten tail-end of the new wave era?
The group started in 1996, formed by Kevin Barnes and named after a failed romance with a girl from Montreal. The group was in fact not a group per se until Barnes relocated to Athens, Georgia and recruited the first two members. I myself first discovered the existence of the group via a poster on Rob Gordon’s wall in the film version of High Fidelity, along with the likes of the 13th Floor Elevators, The Beta Band and Stiff Little Fingers. Since 1996, the band has made eleven records since their inception, with just as many member changes.
Throughout the record, that all-pervasive Gang Of Four-style disco beat is present, perhaps to bring some sort of overly coherent anchor, alongside guitar so unadventurous that it could be described in the same way. The noughties fashion of rat-a-tat percussion is there, while the band spuriously cite inspiration from Afrobeat. There are questionable choices, an urban chic rap that appears out of nowhere, though maybe we should applaud the experimentation in this instance.
Alongside the usual indie stylings, undercurrents of what many music lovers refer to as ‘twee pop’ keep the momentum going, but overall only adding to the mayhem. A clutter of sounds in the name of experimentation, leaving one unable to refer positively to any song in particular. Many tracks just go on and on, almost as if written without a beginning or end in mind.
Perhaps this is testament to the record’s status as only unreleased material. Perhaps these tracks didn’t previously make the cut because of the factors discussed here. Perhaps I shouldn’t form an opinion without having listened to of Montreal’s “true” discography. Yet even so, shouldn’t there still be some overall narrative to the LP? It also leads to a more fundamental question – what credible artist releases material they’re unhappy with?
Reading between the lines, also contemplating the chops and changes to the band’s lineup, maybe Barnes is a man who can’t quite pinpoint what he wants from his music.