The Elephant 6 Recording Company is a collective of like minded musicians and downright freaky individuals who have, since 1991, released some of the best independent albums of the last 15 years.
On the surface most of the music produced by the Elephant 6 bands focus on 60’s psychedelia coupled with the twee pop of that era. But beneath the surface there is always the feeling that something sinister lurks, something disturbing. It’s like a David Lynch movie; all waving firemen and bucolic summer settings, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that it’s all an illusion. The reality underneath is something that’ll make your stomach turn and your mind reel with revulsion.
That being said, it’s very entertaining stuff! Although older musos will be able to play “spot the influences” (“hey, that’s the Zombies! That sounds like…”), it somehow flies above its forbearers adding enough modern twists to make it fresh and exciting.
Some of the bands and albums have achieved such regal cult status that it may be a let down when one first hears them. The discography is massive and intimidating, and if you don’t start with the right bands or the right albums you may find yourself saying “What the hell is all the fuss about with this Elephant 6 crap, Uncle E!?!”
So, being the generous sort that I am, I thought I’d attempt to point you in the right direction. I’ll start you at the beginning of the yellow brick road, point you in the right direction and hope you find your own way to the Emerald City. If you start with the following albums I think you’ll be ok.
Neutral Milk Hotel, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea: This album has achieved similar status to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless over the years and is a real trip. A cross between peak-era Donovan and a marching band on acid is the easiest way to describe it.
Of Montreal, Satanic Panic In The Attic: Surreal lyrics, a trademark of Of Montreal’s brain trust Kevin Barnes, and a stripped down sound and damn fine songwriting makes this the most accessible of the Of Montreal albums. Lysergic Bliss is a real wonder of a song.
Olivia Tremor Control, Dusk At Cubist Castle: The White Album of it’s time. Schizophrenic yet tuneful, epic yet intimate. Beach Boys, Krautrock, folk and Velvet Underground all wrapped in one wonderful package.
Apples In Stereo, New Magnetic Wonder: Vocoders, Mellotrons, backwards guitars and a heavy dose of Something/Anything era Todd Rundgren thrown in for good measure. Funnyman Steven Colbert has championed them from the beginning, which is an endorsement of the highest order.
Ladybug Transistor, The Albemarle Sound: If The Olivia Tremor Control want to be The Beatles, then Ladybug Transistor on this album want to be Burt Bacharach. Sounding like it could’ve been released 40 years ago, it’s more of a direct replication of their influences that the rest of E6 it’s still a fine, fine listen in it’s own right.
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