Published Feb 27, 2015Prior to writing and recording Aureate Gloom, Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes was in the midst of a divorce with his wife of 11 years. Described as "golden despondency" by Barnes, the sound here reflects this dark, yet increasingly optimistic period in Barnes' life and makes for a highly erratic record from an already eccentric band.
The record is in so many ways as contradictory as the oxymoronic album title ("aureate" refers to something made of or having a golden colour), often shifting in message, theme, tempo and tone, all within the same radio-length song. Venturing through various musical landscapes that span from '60s pop to doo-wop to progressive metal, the band stays tight, shifting tones and rhythms effortlessly. On "Virgilian Lots," a song addressed to Barnes' ex-wife, the band switches gears multiple times, often reflecting the mood of the lyrics. A hard intro with reedy synths begins the track, but slips abruptly into a mournful R&B pre-chorus and recovers in the same fashion only to ironically state that, "Just as the twin volcanoes of Cuauhnáhuac, we were once stable." Similarly, "Last Rites at the Jane Hotel" finds him yearning for company — "I wanna be your friend, not a poison" — before turning abruptly and spitting that "You used to share my broken tongue, now you sing flat alone" on following track "Empyrean Abattoir." He's not above reproach, either, admitting blame and failure in lines like, "I repeat the wickedness to force reactions out of you, but little hurts as deeply as I want it to."
Personal tales of woe are offset by punk guitars that sound like cars speeding down a highway ("Monolithic Egress"), fascinating tales of recording in Mexico ("Apollyon of Blue Room" and "Estocadas") and a track of absurd focus ("Chthonian Dirge For Uruk the Other"). Aureate Gloom is the point where grief becomes a search for light in creation, adventure and musical experimentation, making even Barnes' more experimental sonic forays sound urgent. (Polyvinyl)