Though pushing limits is good, it’s best to define them first. On the latest record from the abstract minds of Of Montreal, dance and experimental pop clash in a magical digital world of colour. Though there are many intriguing moments, the album lacks cohesion between and even within songs. Like many of the shorter albums that have come out in the past year it also feels like tries to stretch itself to compensate for less songs and doesn’t really warrant the extra time at all.
The album eschews a cosmic mix of funk and synth-pop, with “Soft Music/Juno Portraits of The Jovian Sky” roaring in with a dense and fantastical sound. The track’s fleshed out narrative is one that repeats throughout the record’s layered story, as the band weave a surprisingly complex tale into their music. Of Montreal eventually bring the track to a boil through an angelic bridge that stretches between serene highs and warped lows. Even in the moments of pure bass and beat, the track is constantly shifting energy to redeem its somewhat unnecessary run-time.
“Paranoiac intervals/Body Dysmorphia” shifts to a much stricter dance beat as Of Montreal shed a lot of the paranoia for ecstatic grooves. They do craft this sense of uncertainty as well throughout the song however, giving the choruses more of a release and offering a deeper dynamic to the song. A cold energy takes over the second half of the song however as they move to a more aggressive synth-pop but this side of the track feels too unexplored to be its own song let alone a part of this one.
There’s a distant haze on “Writing The Circles/Orgone Tropics” that makes its simple synth waves feel lush and heavy. The entrancing spiral of the vocals leads you deeper into the track’s growing fuzz until begins to evolve. It’s when the track hits a sort of religious feeling in its choruses that becomes something more foreign and intriguing. As the song passes between this psychedelia and more sax-driven funk, the track melds two worlds together a lot stronger than other songs on the record.
“Plateau Phase/No Careerism No Corruption” rings out with a melody just as absurd as its opening lyrics. Despite its running beat however, the track’s more up-tempo energy is hard to get on as its bass feels so distant in the mix. Of Montreal at least offer variety and sonic depth in the song, since it just never seems to stand out otherwise. This said, even this variety can be enough to make the song feel heavily broken-up and hard to get into.
Nostalgia and neon guitars glow in “Sophie Calle Private Game/Every Person Is A Pussy, Every Pussy Is A Star!” as the track brims with a defined aesthetic from the start. The track ties in so much of the album’s incessant quirks well however, as it bounces without feeling incessantly repetitive and predictable. Of Montreal also really elevates the track through their harmonic breaks that give a punchy energy to the song. This unfortunately never pays off the same in the song’s sunny second half however.
As they emulate a bit of MIKA and Abba, “If You Talk To Symbol/Hostility Voyeur” ends up being the most addictive listen on the record. Cranking up the overt pop that both acts bring and getting darker than either one, Of Montreal really push the limits here. Thanks to the track’s more catchy atmosphere, the explorative moments and shifts in groove feel a lot more accessible.
Words by Owen Maxwell