Of Montreal's adventurous avant-pop has been the aural equivalent of a kaleidoscope, forming new musical colors and patterns with each successive album and EP since Kevin Barnes founded his flamboyant musical experiment in 1996.
Apparently, heartbreak was the original inspiration for this band, named for a woman from Montreal who had broken Barnes' heart, which bled through the deceptively bright Beatles-meets-Beach Boys melodies and arrangements of the 1997 debut album “Cherry Peel.”
Other dark states of mind have informed of Montreal's ever-changing music, especially in recent years with the depression-shadowed “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” (2007), the domestic turmoil-haunted “Skeletal Lamping” (2008), and this year's melodically rich art-pop epic “Paralytic Stalks,” which is lyrically one of Barnes' darkest, most personal confessionals, fraught with self-loathing, frustration and confusion.
And there's more where all of that came from on the newly released “Daughter of Cloud,” which compiles 17 of Montreal recordings ranging from the “Hissing Fauna” period to the present, including 10 previously unreleased songs and seven that were originally issued on rare, out-of-print or limited edition CDs or seven-inches. The selections represent the whole spectrum of styles that have shaded the band's eccentric music, from Beatles and avant-garde classical to '70s prog-rock and dashes of Curtis Mayfield/Stevie Wonder-inspired funk.
For a man who never puts out the same music twice and doesn't like to revisit his own old material, releasing a rarities album seems a bit out of character.
“Well it's basically sort of like an emptying of the vaults,” Barnes said from his home in Athens, Ga. “It's like, I had all these songs. I wanted to release tracks two through seven, two through six maybe, I can't remember. But I wanted to release those as a separate EP that would have come out actually before ‘Paralytic Stalks,' our last full-length record, because those were songs that were from the ‘False Priest' era and that was like a really prolific period for me.
“So we put out ‘False Priest' and then we put out ‘TheControllersphere' EP which is songs from that time period, and I wanted to put out another EP ... Polyvinyl basically said, you know, rather than put out another EP why don't you put out all these other songs, just group 'em all together and do more like a full-length outtakes compilation or whatever. So I decided to do that just because actually I realized that the time had passed for those songs to come out as anything new, so I might as well just group them all together and release them like that.”
But Barnes insisted that rather than arranging the songs chronologically, they should be sequenced on “Daughter of Cloud” to give the listener the same feeling they would get from hearing a new album.
“I figured it'd be cool to start with the oldest track (“Our Love is Senile”), and then from there just kind of semi-randomly just picking songs, ‘OK this goes here, this goes here.' There was some thought put into maintaining some kind of flow and in that sense, yeah.”