As the birthplace of both REM (opens in a new tab) and the B-52s of Athens, Georgia can claim to have given rock two of the most original acts of the 80s.
Lesser known, but no less original, Olivia Tremor Control emerged from Athens in the late 1990s with a mix of indie-rock and neo-psychedelia that drew inspiration from 1960s acts like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, combining catchy guitar lines with multi-part harmonies in songs reminiscent of that earlier era.
The band was started in the late 1980s as Cranberry Lifecycle by guitarists Will Cullen Hart and Jeff Mangum.
When guitarist Bill Doss came aboard, Mangum left for a solo project that would become the psychedelic-folk indie-rock band Neutral Milk Hotel.
Between 1993 and 1996, Hart and Doss recorded dozens of weird songs and instrumentals on a four-track cassette recorder, which became the basis for the band’s 1996 debut album. Music from the screenplay of the unrealized film: Twilight at the Cubist Castle (opens in a new tab).
A double-disc effort, it’s rewarding if not sometimes difficult listening, drifting from lo-fi indie rock to sunny 1960s pop and avant-garde snippets of sonic experimentation.
What’s constant is a passion for the rich vocal harmony, lo-fi production standards, and engaging, ever-changing guitar sounds envisioned by Hart and Doss.
“No Growing (Exegesis)” sounds like Iveys-era Badfinger if they had been produced by Brian Eno in his Here come the hot jets (opens in a new tab) phase, combining angular Uni Vibe– drenched and shimmering guitar lines acoustic guitars in a pop confection loaded with harmony.
On the loping “Holiday Surprise 1, 2, 3”, chiming tremolo guitar outlines the verses before Hart and Doss switch to grungy distorted tones for the chorus.
Meanwhile, “Jumping Fences”, probably the most immediately gripping of the album’s 27 tracks, begins with an infectious circular guitar riff and a beefy beat before sinking into meows. drag guitar just as the song — a full minute and 52 seconds — reaches its beautifully sweet chorus.
“We try to take something really simple and reiterate its theme over and over again, and at the same time, like every time it happens – if you listen carefully or after multiple listens or whatever – you’ll notice some things that are wrong,” Hart explained to The Dallas Observer in 1999.
“Beach Boys harmonies and grating noise. You know, just things we like.
The band continued their debut in 1999 with Black Foliage: Animation Music, Volume 1 (opens in a new tab)a sound collage inspired by sergeant. peppers (opens in a new tab) and unreleased Beach Boys Smile (opens in a new tab) album.
The band broke up in 2000 and Doss continued to work with the Apples in Stereo.
The Olivias reunited in 2009 and continue to this day without Doss, who died on July 30, 2012.
Watch the band perform “Jumping Fences” at Fork Music Festival (opens in a new tab) on July 13, 2012, shortly before Doss’ tragic death.
Browse the Olivia Tremor Control Catalog here (opens in a new tab).