New album from of Montreal
The last paradigm shift for the band of Montreal was signaled by the release of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? in 2007. The album abandoned the escapist neo-psychedelia that had defined of Montreal’s early work in favor of deeply personal songs revolving around lead singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Barnes’ separation from his wife. These songs explore the less glamorous aspects of human consciousness.
Hissing Fauna also introduced Georgie Fruit — Barnes’ 40-year-old, African-American, transsexual, funk-playing alter-ego — who dominated the latter half of the album and all of the band’s next two albums.
Under Fruit’s musical guidance, of Montreal’s music morphed into a mesh of R&B, cock rock, funk, and pop loaded with self-deprecating hedonistic fantasies that would make Prince blush. While this shift toward hypersexuality was somewhat refreshing in 2007 — when indie bands were polite, prudish, and doe-eyed — times have changed.
In the past five years, indie has grown to be edgier and more rebellious, and the shock value that accompanied of Montreal’s sexy and self-examining musical style has dissipated. But when False Priest was released in 2009, it was clear that Barnes was still strongly attached to the idea of his alter-ego.
Paralytic Stalks, the group’s newest album, was a crossroads for the indie veterans: Would they continue making gimmicky shock music or would they evolve into a band that could distinguish itself in the growing indie community?
Upon listening to Paralytic Stalks, of Montreal’s decision is resoundingly clear: Fruit is dead. The opening track, “Gelid Ascent,” reconfigures expectations with expansive space-rock drenched in an aura of sinister dread. The songs “Spiteful Intervention” and “Wintered Death” both feature arrangements reminiscent of the classically influenced infancy of progressive rock while “Ye, Renew the Plaintiff” begins with the bright, funk-tinged sound of Skeletal Lamping and False Priest before falling into more psychedelic guitar-centered rock.
While it is sometimes difficult to determine the influences of the band’s new sound, it is clear that the group has not lost its sense of musical versatility, nor the preternatural darkness that emerged in Hissing Fauna.
The biggest development on Paralytic Stalks, however, is of Montreal’s newfound fondness for sonic manipulation. The group does not manipulate sound the same way that post-punk and psychedelic rock did by making use of space, but rather by incorporating seemingly random spurts of noise and chopped up samples.
This is most salient on “Exorcismic Breeding Knife” and “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission,” which both feature extended sections of cacophonous noise. If Hissing Fauna was the moment at which of Montreal emerged from the naïve innocence of childhood, then Paralytic Stalks signals the band’s entry into adulthood: It is focused, jaded, ambitious, yet experienced enough to know that there is such a thing as too much sex.
Paralytic Stalks will be released on Tuesday.