Kevin Barnes has made a livelihood out of playing dress up on of Montreal albums; from a peaceof montreal and love paisley troubadour, to a pop-centric studio loner, to a manic depressant, anxiety-ridden groove maker, to a transvestite hooker. Barnes has taken character-driven songwriting to new heights. The thing is, I think each “character” Barnes has taken on have all been elements of himself. Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer seemed to be the most biographical he’d gotten on any album up to that point, using that record as a jumping off point into two albums(Skeletal Lamping and False Priest) where he got lost in those record’s worlds. In 2013 with the release of Lousy With Sylvianbriar, Barnes opened the studio doors to friends and recorded as a real band, live in the studio directly to tape. The result was a buzzing, breathing record filled with late 60s nostalgia by way of the Stones and Bob Dylan. Now, with Aureate Gloom Kevin Barnes stuck with that living, breathing formula in the studio and traded in the late 60s nostalgia for mid-70s New York grime. The Stones and Dylan have been shelved for Television’s beatnik post-punk and Talking Heads’ jitters. of Montreal haven’t sounded this vital and in-the-moment since 2007.

“Bassem Sabry” is all funk and disco skronk, and it puts us in Barnes’ headspace right away. It sounds like Talking Heads, had they gone full-on disco. The song shifts as Barnes sings “I’ll never follow, no kind of master’s voice” with a melancholy lean before the song refrain “I believe in witches, I believe in you” fades us out. It’s a great opening track, and one that seems to encompass everything that’s great about a Kevin Barnes song. “Last Rites At The Jane Hotel” is filled with all kinds of gnarly attitude and jagged regret. “Empyrean Abattoir” starts out like an IRS-era R.E.M., all tight high hat and driving bass before the song gets mildly frantic and psychedelic in the chorus. “Aluminum Crown” floats on a cloud of disenchantment as Barnes sings “I’ve been cursed by troubled dreams, I’ve been hurt by troubled dreams”, before the song kicks in jangly new wave mode half way through. “Virgilian Lots” is classic of Montreal, with genteel backing vocals and some classic Barnes vernacular.

I think the most striking thing about Aureate Gloom is how good this band sounds. They sound like a cohesive, rock ‘n roll machine willing to perform whatever pops into Kevin Barnes’ head and with great ease and vigor. Barnes did the studio loner thing for quite a few years, and with much success. Hell, I will throw fisiticuffs with anyone that says anything bad about Skeletal Lamping as I feel it’s a genius and masterful mess. But by 2011 I think the formula for of Montreal needed some tinkering. Adding living, breathing cohorts to the mix to help Barnes create his aural mazes and melody-painted panic attacks was just what this band needed. “Estocadas”, for my money, is the greatest example of that. It’s rock swagger, psychedelic blues, and overall melancholy bridge epitomizes everything Barnes is capable of. He shows the verbiage he’s known for is no match for heart-on-sleeve pain and pissed-on aspirations. “Estocadas” is baroque and gritty and damn near perfect.

If you’ve never been a fan of of Montreal, I’m not sure the tide will turn with Aureate Gloom. It’s very much an of Montreal record; which is to say it’s still fussy, labyrinthine, and sometimes a hard pill to choke down. Thing is, those exact things are what make of Montreal fans come back for more. Kevin Barnes creates musical tapestries that you can get lost in. He creates worlds that look familiar and strangely perverse at all once. You commit to an of Montreal album. You’re rewarded with raw art and pained emotion. Aureate Gloom is of Montreal at their grittiest and gnarliest yet.

8.5 out of 10

About the Author jhubner73

This is where I drop the spat and spittle, the sentimental fat and drivel... Music and such, and maybe a word or two about a word or two. Midwest point-of-view, without all that religion and gun stuff. Intellectually unintellectual. Elitist for the pizza and beer crowd. Grab a bean bag and lounge in the basment for a while, won't you?

10 comments

  1. I have a selection of of Montreal (gee, that looks weird) but don’t know the albums as well as they deserve. Have to say, though, that I like a strong 60s psychedelic flavour – probably more than, say, Television. So I don’t know how I’d go with this new one. Perhaps make time for a listen. Anyway, thanks for another thoughtful and thorough review.

    PS. Was listening to Electric Wurms this evening. Good, but no Meisterwerk!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Electric Wurms is decent, but definitely no Meisterwork!

      I think you’d really like Lousy With Sylvianbriar. That was the last record from 2013. Very steeped in the late-60s. Breezy, fun record…well, as fun as Kevin Barnes can get.

      As far as the new one, give “Bassem Sabry”, “Empyrean Abattoir”, “Estocadas”, and “Like Ashoka’s Inferno Of Memory” as spin, in no particular order. If you like what you hear, take a bigger bite. I’m a hardcore Kevin Barnes fan. He’s a bit of a fussy freak, but I dig his brand of freaky.

      Good to hear from you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The only Of Montreal album I own is The Sunlandic Twins. Can’t remember why I decided to get my hands on it, though I imagine it was the splendid cover and the promise of some psychedelic bonkersness. Long established itself as a favourite, but I’ve never actually explored the catalogue any further.

    This one sounds real good (I dare say there’s a lot of the stuff I enjoy about The Sunlandic Twins).

    … I am starting to really feel overwhelmed by the music I need to check out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get that way sometimes as well…the overwhelming part. But lately I’ve seemed to have been riding the wave of new stuff. I think since writing about music has become such a part of my everyday existence that I find myself searching stuff out all the time. I’m sure soon enough I’ll hit the metaphorical wall and I’ll just want to turn off the receiver for a bit. Maybe for a day or so.

      Sunlandic Twins is a great album, and I don’t think there’s an of Montreal record that doesn’t have fantastic album art. Kevin Barnes’ brother David is an amazing artist. Love his style. As far as maybe jumping back in, I’d suggest Aureate Gloom and Lousy With Sylvianbriar for sure. Then maybe go back to Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer. It’s a classic. I personally love Skeletal Lamping, but it’s not for the faint of heart. If you find yourself really liking all of those, get yourself a drink, put on some headphones, and see where Skeletal Lamping takes you.

      Like

      1. I’ll get my wellies looked out and jump feet first back into the world of Of Montreal. Cheers for giving me some pointers, too – appreciated. I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Just want to say that I happened upon your site, and was overjoyed to see that I’m not alone with my opinion on Skeletal Lamping and Paralytic Stalks! Skeletal Lamping in particular is a genius messy masterwork and by far one of the most impressive albums I have ever heard. I too was shocked when I saw reviews for the album. It is rare that a listener can dive so deep into a person’s psyche and emotional experiences. I love the production quality on Paralytic Stalks; that album is just as good in it’s own way.

    My best friend and I listen to music with each other often, and of Montreal is one of our favorite bands.
    We both love every single album from Cherry Peel all the way up to Lousy with Sylvianbriar, although we haven’t gotten around to Aureate Gloom yet. I love how every album has it’s own unique identity, musically and thematically. My favorite has to be Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse. I firmly believe that album to be the Sgt. Pepper of the indy pop scene. I noticed that you said things didn’t start getting interesting till after Stanic Panic in the Attic, and I have to disagree with you there. Coquelicot is just as dense as Skeletal, with it’s ridiculously whimsical, almost carnival-like melodies and instrumentation, numerous spoken-word sections, and 18 minute long classical piano piece finale, I can see why it would be hard to enjoy at first. It’s certainly hard to digest, but it shows a side of Barnes that I have missed from his more recent work. Not only can he craft deeply personal albums about his many personas, but he can also create incredibly unique fantasy worlds with bizzare and absurd characters, and that’s what I love about his earlier work. If you can, give Coquelicot a shot, the headphones and beer technique will work just as well.

    I could write about my love for of Montreal for ages, but in many respects your reviews have taken the words right out of my mouth and phrased them better than I ever could. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your reviews so far, and will certainly be back for more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Jackson! Thanks for your great response!

      It is truly great to hear from fellow Of Montreal fans. Barnes is certainly a mad musical genius. While I have explored older Of Montreal records, for me I didn’t really start to get into them until ‘Satanic Panic’. I was just making a generalized statement for my personal taste. Now I have to say I haven’t listened to ‘Coquelicot’, so I will listen to that first thing this morning. From the sound of it, I think I may have missed out.

      I think I really connected to Of Montreal once Barnes began to get more personal in his songwriting. Disguising emotional turmoil in his own language. Up to that point things seemed more whimsical to me. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, I found it hard to connect with that. But your enthusiasm has convinced me to go back to give some of those older records another spin.

      All the best, and look forward to seeing you around here.

      J

      Like

    1. All of their album covers are pretty amazing. And I didn’t think Of Montreal would be your cup of musical tea. I think it’d be hit and miss. This record and the last one, you might actually enjoy a good portion of them.

      Liked by 1 person

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