Polyvinyl Records, 2015
They sure have changed a lot since the Satanic Panic days!
After about a year and a half, of Montreal are back with Aureate Gloom, another straight-ahead, less glitter and glam and more rock-based production values; at least that is what it seems like at first.
When it is released on March 3rd, Aureate Gloom is going to cause some excitement and bring much pleasure to fans of both of Montreal as well as the indie rock crowd in general. Why do I have such high expectations? Well, because I have the album to back me up! Aureate Gloom kicks ass!!! This seems to be the second album of their “slightly different” approach which was started with Lousy With Sylvanbriar: More guitar, a little less layering, but the funky, groovy, sexy aura remains! When I first listened to it, I really didn’t know what to expect – these guys have put out so many albums and have generated several different dimensions of their own reality, existentially speaking, that after all this time, I was really ill-prepared for what was to come. But, when I was about to write this review, I listened at least twice more and by the end of the last time I listened, I was really hooked! I realized the old saying, “the more things change the more they stay the same” is true, as are most cliches or old adages – at least there are elements of truth to them (or why would they endure?) – what I mean is that even if they toned down the studio-enhancing-‘drugs’ (joke) and had more guitar on top, they still had a whole lot of superfunkysexythunder going on!. What I thought, at first, was going to be a matured, toned down, maybe “grown-up” version of of Montreal, turned out to be a stupid thought! No, no, no. Don’t be fooled into letting yourself ever think that! Kevin Barnes is still in fine form. He hasn’t slowed down and this album is exhibit A in showing that Barnes has no intention of retreating to a softer, pea-green lea in Ireland (no – he’s going to stay in that sexy, funkified, day-glo castle in Norway! [another inside joke[).
The opening cut, “Bassem Sabry”is tight as is “Last Rites at the Jane Hotel”. There’s a little, tiny echo of The Beatles, not that they were even trying for that, but, when you think about what those four lads from Liverpool did, one can look back and recognize that you can still be obsequious and full of surrealistic lyrics without being mind-blowing. Another thing I noticed from “Last Rites at the Jane Hotel” was the mention of creating his own “season in hell”, something that I took as being an homage to the Jim Morrison of 19th Century poets, Arthur Rimbaud. “Empyrean Abbatoir” is an orgiastic, dreamy song with some very creative hooks and just a lovely musical late night dip in a multi-colored pool. But, when all is said and done, the real thing about Aureate Gloom is that, while it, too, is, as I mentioned, “stripped down” compared to the older, psychedelia, Aureate Gloom does have a little more joie de vivre than Lousy With Sylvanbriar. This one is more nouvelle musique, even the music itself has its own particular poetry. Of course, the lyrics are as esoteric as ever; that’s Kevin Barnes for you. He has a lot of interesting things to get across, but you have to interpret that in your own way. Sometimes you may be right on and get it, other times, you just have to go with what your first instinct is.
The smooth, great, songs, tinged with guitar and a steady beat, also has some hooks that really have you biting on them right away – the production on this album is angelic, the moon, the stars, the whole milky way seems to be harmonizing in some way or another on the songs here. “Virgilian Lots” really swoons and has a great, memorable aura, the kind that, after hearing it and really listening, will stick with you and the one thing that makes that different than other tunes that bug the hell out of you for not getting out of your head, will be a delight to have romping around in your head, when you’re daydreaming, for example. Another ecstatic, delight whose greatness comes from all the time signature changes and the mysterious lyrics is “Monolithic Egress” and I can’t leave out “Apollyon of Blue Room” – a song that has some more rock to it, guitars jamming, piano melodiously twinkling, and Barnes’s typical novelty to it. The singing has a kind of a rock-steady beat to it, albeit, drenched in esoterica, lyric-wise – but that’s Barnes for you – the lyrics, I’m sure, have some kind of meaning to them, but you’d have to either know Kevin well enough to know what he’s driving at or straight-up ask him yourself.
That is one thing that keeps up with all of Montreal’s albums: the lyrics are such that they have just enough sense to them so you can follow so far, but when it comes to trying to explain where it is these words come from, you get stuck.
Musically, however, this is a real high-water-mark: the shades of rock that are in here, mixed with space-time. Even the wonderfully exotic Skeletal Lamping, as great as that was, has been outdone on Aureate Gloom. Who’d have thought that by taking some of the extra stuff out and adding in more guitar they’d be able to make this album so fresh, so unique that I already know it’s going to turn up as one of the “Best of 2015” at the end of the year? Well, that is true. I’ve already heard a number of albums from 2015 and I can honestly say that nothing I’ve yet heard is as groovy and memorable as this one. Just when I thought that Lousy With Sylvanbriar was taking of Montreal into a more refined territory, here comes Aureate Gloom, to wipe away that notion. This is like, “Phase III” for of Montreal’s music: “Phase I” was the psychedelia that was a heavy part of their early work. Then, when they did Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer? and then Skeletal Lamping along with the 2007 EP, Icons Abstract Thee and even False Priest and the other EP, thecontrollersphere, that was “Phase II”. Now, we’re into the second album of “Phase III” – Aureate Gloom and, the one thing that all three phases have in common is that they have Kevin Barnes’s super day-glo, mysterious lyrical riddles, sometimes oozing with sexuality and a heady, circus mind, other times, a metaphorical, allegorical, hidden meaning.
You have just got to give this a listen: you’ll not be disappointed!! To buy it or at least find out more about it, visit https://www.polyvinylrecords.com –KM.