Published Sep 18, 2011The Elephant Six Recording Company was a ubiquitous presence in the indie rock pantheon throughout the 1990s. With so many artists involved in the collective, it was damn near impossible to not be a fan of at least one of its members. But when E6 quietly called it a day back in 2002, it seemed as if all of its bands were content to either disappear or leave it behind them.
So it comes as a surprise to see so many of them return in the past couple years, none bigger than co-founder Jeff Mangum, the reclusive genius behind Neutral Milk Hotel, who has resurrected his career by touring and reissuing his work. All of this activity paved the way nicely for fellow co-founders the Olivia Tremor Control, who followed Mangum's lead, both reissuing their two out-of-print albums and embarking on a tour.
Fellow E6 member Julian Koster opened up the Olivia Tremor Control's Toronto show with his Music Tapes project. Accompanied on stage by a few band members and his famous gadgets like the Mechanized Organ Playing Tower and the conspicuous 7 Foot Tall Metronome, Music Tapes were the ideal appetizer. Stacking harmonies with an array of instruments ranging from various horns to his "singing saw" and the banjo that never left his side, Koster put on a spectacle, to say the least.
Also a touring member of the Olivia Tremor Control, Koster reappeared on stage with the headliners. With a rather modest looking set-up, OTC in the flesh didn't look as if they arrived with their fun-trick-noisemakers in tow. But once they got underway, the music revealed itself to be almost every bit as layered and whimsical as their recordings.
Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart alternated on vocals just as the band did with selections from both Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage. Doss, the more melodic of the two vocalists (see "Jumping Fences"), seemed to win out with his songs, as Hart got lost in the mix at times. But they managed to nail most of the harmonies on songs like "A New Day," "A Peculiar Noise Called Train Director" and the brand new three-part track "The Game You Play Is in Your Head." Saving single "The Opera House" for the encore, OTC took the opportunity to let loose and sacrifice their harmonies for an impenetrable wall of noise.
Reunited bands often look old and tired or in need of one more rehearsal; the Olivia Tremor Control looked a bit seasoned in appearance only, playing more like they never took that decade off. As such, the new album they're working on promises to be one of 2012's most anticipated releases.