The whimsical indie rock outfit, of Montreal, has been consistently releasing music since their 1997 debut LP, Cherry Peel. The band — frontman Kevin Barnes’s musical project for the past 11 years — floats through notes of soft indie-rock to erotic tones of ’80s electronic dance music in their most recent release, White is Relic/Irrealis Mood.
The house show sound and organic instrumentals in of Montreal’s past full-lengths is completely abandoned in White is Relic/Irrealis Mood. Throughout its 41-minute journey, the record adopts an electronic style. It’s cleanly produced, devoid of the playful jam-band sounds in records like Satanic Panic in the Attic, and its atmosphere feels more condensed than anything the band has released before.
White is Relic/Irrealis Mood takes listeners to a place with pulsing neon lights. The surging electricity hums through the various synth tones that come in waves throughout the record. There exists a level of tranquility that becomes interrupted by echoed bass beats — the type that moves from the speakers, injects itself into your lungs and tickles its way up your spine.
The album seems like a conglomeration of ’80s EDM samples produced tightly into a singular identity. It moves through high pops of electro-dance energy and mellows itself into a soft dream with whispers of unexpected, but appropriate notes of the saxophone. It elicits a momentary experience of being lost, but its exciting nature shocks you back into its nightclub ambiance. You can almost see sweaty bodies moving in pure ecstasy, mesh shirts wrinkling together with drips of bright green eyeliner kissing cheeks.
The fluid electricity throughout the record climbs into space with robotic synth tones. The sharp and high-pitched instrumentals draw out, stretching to reach somewhere beyond this earth. In “Plateau Phase/No Careerism No Corruption,” Barnes’s hypnotic voice takes us to the precipice between space and time. He sings, “We can hear the dark matter breeding,” “If we put our ear to the ceiling / We can hear the multiverse ceding / We can hear the simulation wheezing.” On Barnes’s final note of “wheezing,” the bass beats skip like a scratched track of a CD, and the music collapses into sounds of laser beams.
The spacey and robotic sounds that are layered through the album adopt a more rigid identity when they reach its final song, “If You Talk to Symbol/Hostility Voyeur.” Being the album’s longest song, at eight-and-a-half minutes, it encompasses the record’s EDM exploration as it moves from short, structured synth hits to a final release of surreal bliss. The small, but rapid synths pulse from low to high tones as the drum pad beats fill the foreground. The song builds an exciting tension released by a return of the saxophones. Barnes places their croons of soft energy in an unnatural setting, but delivers it effortlessly; their arrival creates a harmonious relationship between the contrasting elements in the record, and then it all seeps into space.
The evolution in the sounds of White is Relic/Irrealis Mood transports us from the EDM nightclub into a pink fever dream. It leaves us laying on a cloud with time to take a deep, satisfying breath after a night of dancing amongst the stars and whispering to the planets.