Pop: Psychedelia revisited

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
IT'S A CRASS cliche that the southern states of America are stuck in some kind of time warp; but tonight, watching the Olivia Tremor Control, it's as though the last 30 years never happened. Based in Athens, Georgia, home of REM and the state's university, the OTC are presumably studying Advanced Psychedelia, majoring in British whimsy 1966-69. So perfect is their take on early Pink Floyd, The Beatles circa Sgt Pepper, and the meandering sleepiness of The Kinks, it almost detracts from the pleasure of such a convincing, fully formed live band.

Though centred around a core of five musicians, various auxiliary members wander on stage with instruments ranging from clarinets and trombones to a child's plastic piano. At one point there appear to be 10 people up there, and one of them is simultaneously struggling with a bass guitar and saxophone.

Originally from Louisiana, the leaders of OTC, Will Hart and Bill Doss, are part of a loose collective calling themselves Elephant 6, also including Robert Schneider of the Apples In Stereo, and Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, whose excellent, bizarre set tonight (an amalgam of folk, punk and New Orleans jazz funeral music) was well received .

All share a distinctly American take on "car-boot" culture - the mix- and-match nature of found music and objects. In the case of OTC, it means the use of a Tibetan metal bowl to set up a drone, followed by the extensive use of Crosby, Stills and Nash-style vocal interplay. Or using a violin bow on a bass banjo.

OTC are at their best when their perfect harmonies coalesce around deceptively simple songs, such as the gorgeous "Jumping Fences', "Define a Transparent Dream" and "Spring Succeeds", all from last year's excellent Dusk at Cubist Castle album, and all so concise, they are almost unsatisfying. Other highlights are "Not Human", an acid-fuelled garage band attempting a soul instrumental in an imaginary 1964, complete with primal screaming; and "Holiday Surprise 1, 2, 3", a fine facsimile of the great lost Southern Anglophile outfit Big Star.

With a new album, Black Foilage, in the can (another psych-pop extravaganza partly based on fans'dreams) it could be time for this enthusiastic outfit to break through.

Both bands will be playing in the UK again within the month. Careful with that trombone, Eugene.