Almost the lifetime of a PearShaped writer ago, of Montreal released the first installment of what has now become twelve albums. That’s a long time, and a lot of albums. If the band from Athens (USA, not Greece) hadn’t consistently released so much over such a long period of time, I’d be tempted to say that the greater achievement here is the fact that they haven’t gone stale. Listening to Aureate Gloom, the band’s famous range of styles and influences is incredible, each song almost being an album in itself.
A defining aspect of the album is reflected in the title: Aureate Gloom (Aureate means to be made of or to resemble gold). The opening track, Bassem Sabry, acts as an indicator for what we can expect to hear as we progress through the album. It’s upbeat and retains some of the band’s original, lo-fi sound while employing a sombre vocal tone to gloomy lyrics, creating a tasteful contrast. Every song has this really interesting quality of messy, guitar-focused instrumentals, in fusion with darker vocals and the occasional delicate riff.
In songs like Virgilian Lots and Estocadas we see temporary deviations from of Montreal’s usual psychedelia into Spanish-style guitar melodies and the scattered electronic sound that has been a mainstay of their recent work. I preferred these songs to some of the others on the tracklist (see Monolithic Egress and Aluminium Crown) as in the latter tracks the wide variety of sounds and ideas were funneled too densely into too short a song. Aluminium Crown starts well with some interesting lyrics and solid 60s-influenced backing, but after a sketchy switch into 90s garage rock and a further evolution into a sort of 70s ballad vibe, the song lost momentum - and my interest. It was a similar story with Monolithic Egress, but this time it was also the hectic feel that took the lo-fi aspect of their style too far.
But moving past these qualms I had with the over-numerous influences within the odd track on Aureate Gloom, of Montreal get all the approval I can grant with Empyrean Abattoir and Like Ashoko’s Inferno Of Memory. Neither of these songs are perfect, in fact the last 70 seconds of Empyrean Abattoir depressed me due to their dip in quality, but the mixture of hard rock guitar, Beatles-style vocals (think Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds), intriguing lyrics, and delectable melodies, is frankly beautiful.
It’s impossible to squeeze all of my opinions into a simple review; I mentioned earlier that each song is like an album – I’ve never come across such a wide variety of influences represented within each track and throughout the album. Their tour is coming to the UK in April, kick-starting at the suitably trendy Haunt in Brighton. I should imagine that both long-time fans and mere opportunists will be flocking to these performances, along with all the fans that this album will bring them. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for music old or new; picking up a copy of Aureate Gloom is essential to your musical exploration this month.