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The World of Elephant 6

by Raymond Cummings

The World of Elephant 6

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The Elephant 6 Collective — a record label and constellation of bands birthed in and around Denver, Colo. — celebrates its 23rd anniversary this year. This summer and autumn, Neutral Milk Hotel and Circulatory System will join forces for a massive national tour, while Of Montreal crisscross the world, trailing a unique brand of hedonistic psychological terrorism.

The name of the game for Of Montreal is, and always has been, a joyously unabashed retro-mania, though that tendency manifests itself in different ways. The band, the concern of mainstay Kevin Barnes, is arguably the most prolific and high-profile Elephant entity; accordingly, the project has twisted and mutated significantly over the years, from the tackily squirrelly power pop that characterized "My British Tour Diary" to the id-scrambling of "The Past Is a Grotesque Animal" to the fake funk of "You Do Mutilate?"

Meanwhile, anchored by the dynamic singer-songwriter nucleus of Will Cullen Hart and the late Bill Doss, the Olivia Tremor Control churned out loose-limbed, jangly pop rock studded with compositional trapdoors; inspired equally by Jefferson Airplane's LSD fantasias, The Beach Boys' dissolving harmonies, and their fans' dreams, OTC blazed a singular path with the handful of records they produced as a unit. The Hart-led Circulatory System would tread a similar path, thematically blurring the lines between past, present and future. Neutral Milk Hotel went in for a strain of intensely fuzzed-out folk that the Music Tapes made a point of turning inside out; The High Water Marks humped early Matador Records college skronk with an admirable passive-aggressiveness. Whether issued by Merge, Polyvinyl, Cloud, or Kindercore, these albums invariably lodge themselves in many a record collection.

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