As Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes gets set to celebrate his 13th LP with a date at The Kaz, Getintothis’ Paul Higham provides the lowdown on a genuine musical maverick.
With a new album, Aureate Gloom, due to hit the shelves on 2 March, Of Montreal will introduce The Kazimier to their kaleidoscopic sounds on 21 April in a welcome stop-off on a short UK tour this spring.
Of Montreal first shot to prominence in the mid-90s. Hailing from Athens, Georgia the band had a loose connection to the famed Elephant Six collective. Displaying similar breathless experimentation to Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control, early releases married this with with classic pop melodies that would have been firmly at home in the 1960s.
Subsequent releases saw Barnes seemingly reinvent his band at every turn. Encompassing influences from glam rock, funk as well as afro-beat music, the most marked change of style was announced by 2004’s Satanic Panic in the Attic. This album saw the introduction of more danceable rhythms and marked use of drum machines and synthesised beats.
The change in the band’s sound was reflected by a more personal approach on Barnes‘ part. The Sunlandic Twins, in many ways a Barnes solo album, marked a deeper foray into electronic territory. 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer saw a shift in styles once again.
Perhaps owing to prescribed anti-depressants, the album introduced Georgie Fruit (“The character’s name is Georgie Fruit, and he’s in his late forties, a black man who has been through multiple sex changes. He’s been a man and a woman, and then back to a man. He’s been to prison a couple of times“), an alter-ego of Barnes into whom he would morph during the course of the album.
The theme (and Georgie Fruit) was expanded on in Skeletal Lamping, a bold and diverse release perhaps best known for being released across ten different formats. The record was unashamedly funky and laid the ground work for later release Paralytic Stalks a wildly eclectic record marrying many of his earlier styles into a glam-prog-electronica fusion that divided the critics.
His latest offering under the Of Montreal name seems set to be Barnes‘ most personal to date. “”I was going through a very stormy period in my life and felt like I was just completely trashed,” revealed Barnes. “I might be guilty of sharing or exposing too much of my private life, but to me the best albums are those that help people connect with an artist on a deep, human level and that do so without too much artifice or evasiveness.”
Conceived and recorded at breakneck speed, the album offers a window into Barnes‘ bizarre psyche and musically is typically diverse. Said to recall the glam rock of T Rex and New York new wave of Television, the album will undoubtedly confound and confuse while equally drawing you in with shape-shifting directional leaps.
The album’s opener and lead single Bassem Sabry, (named after an Egyptian journalist who died in 2014), finds Barnes taking a rare political stance. Alleging that “every leader is a cellophane punk” while equally inciting the listener to follow his command perhaps neatly sums up the strange and dichotomous world of Of Montreal.
Of Montreal play The Kazimier, Liverpool on 21 April 2015.