Last year’s excellent Paralytic Stalks marked a new chapter in of Montreal’s career. After a trilogy of records (and a handful of EPs) exploring the darker regions of sexuality from the perspective of his alter ego Georgie Fruit, Paralytic Stalks was the first time in quite a while where Barnes was conclusively singing directly about himself. And being freed from the schizophrenic funk that marked his Georgie Fruit songs allowed Barnes to appropriate and subvert other genres; as a result, Paralytic Stalks impossibly succeeded by incorporating textural and harmonic elements of contemporary classical composers such as György Ligeti, Krystof Penderecki, and Steve Reich, among others. However, one of that album’s strengths could be found in Barnes’ ability to use these musical tools as a seamless addition to his already broad palette of styles. In no way did these newfound experimental chamber elements feel forced; instead, Barnes simply superimposed his well-defined harmonic/melodic language on top of the stylistic signifiers of those composers’ work to stunning effect.
It seems that full-length genre exercises may be the big theme of the group’s new stage, and the lead single “Fugitive Air” — from the band’s forthcoming album, Lousy with Sylvianbriar — shows off what may be the dominant sound of their new work. Barnes has mentioned that this new material has been largely influenced by Gram Parsons, but Barnes isn’t about to go full alt.country on this stuff. Instead, “Fugitive Air” is another excellent merging of Barnes’ musical language with a new genre. During the first half of the song, his voice and guitar bear some similarities to fellow twang warper Neil Michael Hagerty of Royal Trux/Howling Hex before giving way to an ultra poppy melody reminiscent of early oM albums like Horse and Elephant Eatery. Perhaps the influence of Parsons’ songwriting style may have reined in Barnes’ proclivity for sprawling form. As a result, “Fugitive Air” boasts only three distinct musical sections, as opposed to the usual shifting structures of Barnes’ work. Hopefully, this exploration of genre will continue in of Montreal’s future work, because “Fugitive Air” and Paralytic Stalks show that Barnes has a knack for appropriating and warping any style given to him.
You can stream “Fugitive Air” here:
Lousy with Sylvianbriar is out October 8 via Polyvinyl