After the straightforward, blunt nature of last year’s ‘Aureate Gloom,’ ‘Innocence Reaches’ finds of Montreal’s mastermind Kevin Barnes in a much more lighthearted mood. To go with this sunnier outlook on life, Barnes has embraced contemporary electronica and has been busy making a more accessible sound. After twenty years and thirteen albums, are Of Montreal finally embracing the here and now and becoming more mainstream?
The answer: kind of. Opener ‘let’s relate’ has a throbbing bass undertone that could be found on a number of chart-bothering hits, while ‘it’s different for girls’ is a pulsating, psychedelic pop belter, albeit one with a staccato, out-of-the-blue bridge. ‘gratuitous abysses’ delves into the realm of alt rock, with a warped guitar riff that infects your mind.
At this point Barnes’ vision becomes quite muddled. ‘my fair lady’ makes a combination of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and disco surprisingly grating. ‘les chants de maldoror’ is a repetitive, six-minute fuzz rock slog and it’s inexplicably followed by the jarring ‘a sport and a pastime,’ where Barnes attempts a blend of R&B and light techno. Straying back into the realms of 60s psych, ‘chaos arpeggiating’ sounds like Barnes is trying too hard to find some kind of sweet spot between early Pink Floyd and The Velvet Underground, which only results in it being aggravating to listen to.
It’s a shame that when closer ‘trashed exes’ comes around, it just serves as a glimpse of what could have been. Its squelchy synths and sound effects are mixed with more mainstream synth flourishes and beats that border on trap, creating a quasi-techno stomper that’s actually engaging. Unfortunately, this slightly more mainstream vision is consistently obscured, making ‘Innocence Reaches’ a frustrating listen.