Undoubtedly among the most important psychedelic pop acts of the past two decades, of Montreal have spent the past four years and two albums stumbling past the shadow cast by 2007’s improbably masterful Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?. Admittedly, anything that would have come out on the heels of that perfectly paranoid concept album would’ve been at least a bit of a let down, but the slippery glam-funk of Skeletal Lamping and an ill-advised tryst with R&B stylings on last year’s False Priest were considerably more than just that. While neither album, both of which took their name from lyrics on the sprawling Hissing Fauna…, were admittedly even that bad, their limited musical scope and weak lyrical content made Barnes and of Montreal out to be lost and out of breath for the first time since the early ’00s.
On thecontrollersphere EP, Barnes and his band of lovable weirdos finally sound ready to move past that. From the deafening thrash that kicks off “Black Lion Massacre”, of Montreal make it clear that they’re done fucking around. The bizarre noise piece, which was used prior to its release as the band’s walk-on music on last fall’s False Priest tour, consists of little other than a persistent, mechanical backbeat and sudden crashes of dissonance that call to mind no-wave instigators Swans, all behind a cold, robotic voice (a far cry from Barnes’ usual, effeminate falsetto) that relates a chilling account of life in some sort of freaky, post-apocalyptic world. A sample: “Gouged out the eyes of reptiles and mutilated fish, then prayed deeply and watched as their bodies transformed. Rejoiced in the process and there were rainbows everywhere. Everywhere.” Yeah, don’t ask.
From there, the psych-pop outfit paint a gallery of oddities. “Flunkt Sass vs the Root Plume” toys at a number of things, Syd Barrett-esque psych-folk chief among them. Even the slick funk-rock of “L’age D’or” — which nods to Prince in more ways than one — and the positively upbeat “Holiday Call” — which would’ve made a great candidate for a single release on their last LP aside from its eight-minute track length and an extended, exotic midsection — play like expanded takes on some of the ideas that flopped on False Priest and Skeletal Lamping. While more or less a collection of bastardized leftovers from the False Priest sessions, longtime fans should rejoice as the band finally rekindles their longtime relationship with unpredictability.