Olivia Tremor Control – Presents: Singles and Beyond

Olivia Tremor Control
Presents: Singles and Beyond

OK, one thing you have to know about me as a reviewer is that I’m not coming to this review unbiased. I am an unabashed fan of The Olivia Tremor Control. Their Black Foliage album from a couple of years ago was nothing short of a revelation for me. That having been said, let’s get on with the review.

The Olivia Tremor Control Presents: Singles and Beyond is just what the title says – a collection of singles and EPs and compilation tracks. All are long out of print, so this collection is a treasure trove of goodies that most of us would otherwise never get a chance to hear. What’s most interesting here is that you get a chance to trace the evolution of the band. Some of the earliest material on here was done when Jeff Magnum of Neutral Milk Hotel fame was still a part of the group along with principle songwriters Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart. It’s pretty hard to tell who’s doing what, because most of the songs are recorded in such a lo-fi manner, but even then I could make out Magnum’s trademark, furious acoustic strumming.

The actual songs here, like most OTC releases, range from dreamy pop to abstract sound collages. On most of the record you can just imagine all the recording levels being pushed well past red while they’re bouncing tracks like crazy.

The record starts out with “Love Athena” from the California Demise EP, which is a pretty straight-forward pop/rock song. Like many of the songs here, it is slightly more up tempo and rocks a little harder than their later album stuff. Another song originally off that EP is “The Sunshine Fix,” which is slightly more laid-back and has an almost bluesy/country feel about it. One of the stand out tracks here, originally from the Giant Day EP, is “I’m Not Quite Feeling Human.” Its pure bouncing pop and cascading vocal harmonies. That song is also played live on The Olivia Tremor Control’s recently released Peel Sessions CD.

All in all, the different pieces that make up The Olivia Tremor Control “sound” that you think of are here: the soaring harmonies, the catchy/dreamy tunes and the pure sonic weirdness – just not as fully developed. That’s to be expected though. Some of the collages here just tend to get more than a little old when lacking the cohesive whole of an album like Black Foliage or Dusk at Cubist Castle, where they are a part of a greater whole. Since Olivia Tremor Control’s future is a big question mark (Bill Doss’ Sunshine Fix project/band has just put out an EP on Kindercore), this is a good opportunity for fans to pick up the missing pieces to the puzzle, as this might be the last we hear from them.