From back when references to “the collective” meant Elephant 6, not Animal.
Actually, The Great Lakes were on Kindercore, but this album does feature most of of Montreal and Elf Power in guest spots, and Robert Schneider of the Apples In Stereo produced it. In fact, of Montreal’s Jamey Huggins was an official member of both bands, and when I first encountered the two groups playing a double bill, nobody seemed all that concerned with which one they belonged to. At one point, this enormous hillbilly-looking guy (wearing nothing but overalls and a beard) wandered out of the crowd, climbed onto the stage and played a gorgeous French Horn solo. I assume he was friends with the band, but they were weird times.
Of Montreal had just put out The Gay Parade and were having a lot of fun onstage with wild costume changes and confetti, but the Great Lakes put on a more musically powerful set with great, blooming swirls of well orchestrated psychedelia. If you were into the Athens scene at the time, you know that this style was not exactly in short supply, but while the Great Lakes shared a common chemical makeup with the rest of the collective, they cooked the ingredients with a little more care. None of these songs spiral out into the directionless abstractions of Olivia Tremor Control, nor do they share the latent prog tendencies of the Apples, or of Montreal’s penchant for twee storytelling. A bit like The Essex Green crossed with The Zombies, their songs are buoyant affairs built on vivid layers of swaying melodies that float and drift like an early morning dream. Storming and Become the Ship have a nautical flair, and An Easy Life and Virgil recall the Beatle’s habit of incorporating British music hall elements in their psych-pop (it occurs to me nearly every song on here echoes the relaxed footfalls of that band’s Fixing a Hole or Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, which is a pace I have no problem keeping up with). Elsewhere, A Banana’s gentle synths sigh and flutter like a leaf tumbling through the cool fall air.
It’s a non-stop parade of elegant, sunny pop and retro joy, and although they never achieved the (relative) fame of their scene-mates, it’s still some of the best music the Elephant 6 had to offer.