Olivia Tremor Control: The Sunshine System

Just had the chance to see the long-promised documentary about The Elephant 6 Recording Company, the loose collective of like-minded experimental pop artists who coalesced around Denver and Athens in the 90s--bands like Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power, Of Montreal, Minders, Beulah, Dressy Bessy, etc.

The movie was terrific--it's streaming on AppleTV and Prime starting today--with a balanced blend of interviews, music, and archival footage. Felt great to revisit the music that played such a huge role in my 90s listening experience (and up to this day).

It also inspired me to finish another Imaginary Record project I'd been thinking about. After 2 truly fantastic LPs--1996's Dusk At Cubist Castle and 1999's Black Foliage--the Olivia Tremor Control split up, its two leaders heading in different directions. The pop-oriented Bill Doss formed the Sunshine Fix, releasing a couple albums of more straightforward psychedelic pop, but with some experimental flourishes; while the more free-wheeling William Cullen Hart formed the Circulatory System, releasing a couple albums of largely experimental soundscapes, but with some pop flourishes. IMHO, these offshoot LPs were ok, but suffered without the magical Doss/Hart partnership to cull them into something truly memorable.

So what if we merged the best parts of these two bands' records into an imaginary third OTC record? The result is The Sunshine System. And it's pretty great! I alternated 12 Sunshine Fix tracks with 11 Circulatory System tracks, cross-fading them into a cohesive suite, while applying a bit of editing (especially on the CS songs, which tended to meander a bit)--taking a 68-minute mix down to an even hour. It's focused on the catchier, more psych-pop-oriented tracks, but the duo's lo-fi experimentation keeps things interesting.

Sadly, while the band reunited after about a decade in separate camps, Doss passed away in 2012. They had started recording some new music, which, according to the documentary, the surviving members have continued to work on, so we could get a posthumous Olivia Tremor Control record. But until then, this serves as an excellent substitute.

I've uploaded a copy of my mix here; it'll only be available for a short period of time. I've also created a matching mix on Spotify (but without benefit of the edits and cross-fades, so it's got a bunch of the excess studio noodling I omitted from my CDR version).