Wide Awake And Dreaming

The band is part of the Athens, Georgia Elephant 6 artists' collective.

The story goes that a young guitarist once approached George Harrison

and told him that, after months of work, he'd finally worked out how to

play the polyphonic solo from "And Your Bird Can Sing"; he was impressed

that Harrison had come up with something so beautiful and so difficult.

Harrison, shocked, informed the kid that the solo wasn't difficult at

all -- it was just double-tracked.

The Olivia Tremor Control's records (and, by extension, their

stage-crowding live shows) are based on a similar brilliant fallacy: the

Beatles recorded Magical Mystery Tour on a 4-track machine, the

logic goes, so why should anything more than a home 4-track be necessary

to make a great psychedelic record? As part of the Elephant 6 collective

that includes the likes of the Apples In Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel,

the OTC are committed to the twin ideals that '60s psych-pop represents

the pinnacle of recorded music and that bringing in more friends to add

overdubs is always a good idea. So they overload every song with the

closest homemade equivalents to the sounds on their favorite acid-trip

records -- they've never heard a tune that couldn't be improved in their

ears with some fuzz bass, a tuba, a banjo, a distorted harpsichord,

manipulated tapes of singing saw, a bunch of harmony vocals, a few dozen

backwards guitar overdubs and whatever sound effects happened to be

lying around.

The band's alter ego is the Black Swan Network, which has made a

couple of records of meandering, spacey musique concrete whose

many layers only occasionally drift into something identifiable as a

composition. On Black Foliage, they've figured out how to

integrate BSN's sense of flow and harmonic balance with OTC's songcraft

and sound-overload. The result is an almost continuous, 70-minute suite,

with songs dissolving into abstract audio doodles and "animations" --

anywhere from a few seconds to 10 minutes long. Themes weave through

songs, vanish for a while, then reappear in altered form in the middle

of half-ambient sound collages. If you're willing to hear the album as

pure sound, parts of it are exquisite, but if you're listening for the

songs, too few of them are fully realized here. A new version of their first single, "California Demise," and the swoony Smiley Smile-isms of "Hideaway" are both patchouli marvels, but a lot of other tunes lope into the mix, wrap themselves in mellow-yellow instrumentation, and then slip away with a quick ba-ba-ba before they go anywhere. Still, they have the nuances of their favorite records down: "Grass Canons," for instance, gets its bass hook straight from Big

Star's "You Get What You Deserve," and every time they pull off a

letter-perfect Keith Moon drum fill or Nag Champa-fueled harmony or

backwards guitar drill-drone, they provoke little shivers of delighted

recognition. And they sound delighted to have figured out how to do it