Friday, March 23, 2018

of Montreal - White Is Relic / Irrealis Mood Review

The fringe is nothing new to Kevin Barnes; of Montreal's maniacal frontman. Equip with splashed makeup, saturated attire, an unperturbed sashay, and liberated ideals, the cross-dressing, gender-melding Barnes has consistently stepped heel-first into our era's radicalized, progressive movement. A bold confrontationist, Barnes has never shied away from being the political and cultural black sheep that moves the flock forwards (even on last year's screwy EP Rune Husk). Since Donald Trump's inauguration, when reality set in for many, Indie music has seen a sizable influx of commentary, both wise and uninformed. In that regard, of Montreal's 15th LP White Is Relic / Irrealis Mood is no different. But Barnes' background in defining the left field is. Toying with the concept of duality, of Montreal's latest record, one drenched in, as Barnes puts it, "extended dance mixes of the 80's," collides Big Brother paranoia, emotional instability, anti-Capitalist bravado, love, and self-love into one endless megamix.

Despite only being six songs, White Is Relic clocks in at 42 minutes, a length that necessarily exemplifies Barnes' information overload. Each song contains two parts, some in spirit, others with direct transitions, that personify Barnes' schizophrenia and our society's inability to spotlight a singular issue and conquer it. One minute on 'Paranoiac Intervals / Body Dysmorphia' he's self-aggrandizing the devotion he offers ("you should be fucking with no one else"), the next he's wallowing in self-loathing ("now the anxiety is my one source of energy"), an emotional volatility that resembles Andre 3000's bipolar breakdown on 'DoYaThing.' On White Is Relic's final track, 'If You Talk To Symbol / Hostility Voyeur,' Barnes subsists in a state of disillusioned hypocrisy, terrified of government surveillance - a topic that dominates 'Plateau Phase / No Careerism No Corruption's' hook - whilst admitting that his sexual deviancy requires the need of a camcorder ("if we weren't filming ourselves, we'd get bored"). For the first time in of Montreal's career, their constant unclarity and irrational vanity gets assigned a neat concept, with Barnes' conflicting mind the exposé.

Musically, of Montreal relishes in bombast. By no means a new feat for the band constantly exploring every maximalist venture, White Is Relic's lofty Psychedelic Pop provides a potent punch that gives Barnes' derangement a sonic foundation. Every song here works as if it's near combustion, pacing itself at a ludicrously fast tempo, only veering towards lethargy when Barnes himself enters his mental lulls ('Body Dysmorphia,' the gorgeous, Blackstar-esque instrumental close 'Hostility Voyeur'). Unfortunately, the repetition of a singular drum kit - something Barnes purposely utilized - draws thin on repeated listens. There's organized impermanence, in that the orgasm of synths and bombardment of unorthodox sounds feel inconsequentially exchangeable. One song's laser-wired synth strikes - let's say 'Plateau Phase / No Careerism No Corruption' - could replace the same, slightly altered takes on 'Soft Music / Juno Portraits Of The Jovian Sky.' That was always the case with those Techno-based club mixes of 80's Pop songs; they adhered to a surefire set of rules. The same applies to White Is Relic, in all cases excluding 'Writing The Circles / Orgone Tropics,' which broods with massive weight and placates with misty vocals and sensual brass. 

For what Barnes aimed to accomplish, White Is Relic / Irrealis Mood succeeds. Emotionally drained of all the excess, yet incapable of escaping it. The world's a mentally-exhausting place right now, especially for those susceptible to paranoia, conspiracy theories, or liberal frustration, and that's something of Montreal has always portrayed well.

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