If you're one of those who think that Kevin Barnes' recent output has been a descent into impenetrable self indulgence, resulting in incoherently scattershot records, then a collection of offcuts from a range of his creative incarnations over the last decade or so is likely turn you off before you've even heard it. And indeed, Daughter of Cloud is a real melting pot of wildly disparate of Montreal identities – thinly textured, jingly-jangly pre-Fauna sounding cuts like 'Kristansand', sitting alongside kooky electro-funk of Skeletal Lamping and False Priest at its most fiercely experimental, alongside material somewhere in the middle and some stuff which doesn't sit comfortably anywhere in the recent trajectory at all. The result is a collection which, by virtue of its inherently scrappy nature, exposes all of Barnes' recent records as the robust pieces that they were, in spite of their inability to keep still or to demonstrate one iota of creative restraint.
On a first listen, however, Daughter Of Cloud sounds as if it actually finds a paradoxical coherence in its complete abandonment of a central framework – one of those records whose sheer disparity is its running thread. Of late, one of the greatest pleasures of hearing new of Montreal material is the keen anticipation of what could possibly be coming next, coupled with plenty of moments of genuine surprise when they come up with something even wilder, sexier and funkier than you could have ever guessed at. So on a record which lurches from sound to sound with complete abandon, these moments are both multiplied and amplified without much effort from Barnes. And combine this with the fact that a lot of these cuts sound like they might have been discarded by virtue of being too insane or weird even by Barnes' high tolerance threshold for oddity, and the effect is magnified even more intensely.
To talk about the high points of these songs feels almost to spoil them for you, such is the delight of hearing them unveil themselves – the shatteringly dirty bass throb of 'Hindlopp Stat' stomping out of the formless 'Steppin' Out', or any number of Barnes' un-PC lyrical punchlines where, more than ever before, gendered and racial identities melt in the face of his searing hyper-id. But there's a downside to the fact that to even talk about the record feels like spoiling it: the fact is that a lot of these moments only hit the mark once. Daughter of Cloud is effectively the opposite to that clichéd 'grower' album: its first spin is its strongest, and then suffers diminishing returns on subsequent plays which lose their capacity to dazzle with surprise.
Indeed, while Daughter of Cloud houses a number of Barnes' most flamboyantly weird musical ideas, they're also frequently some of his hollowest – an argument to be made on the grounds of style over substance, and underdeveloped song writing. And so while no collection of 'too-weird-for-Skeletal-Lamping' offcuts is ever going to be even slightly dull or uninteresting, it's certainly more of a curiosity piece than something you're likely to listen to in its entirety on many occasions.
But as far as curiosity pieces go, 18 snapshots of Barnes at his most filthy and fancy free really is delightfully curious, and so if you've stuck with him so far, you might just as well make this bonus psyche-delic trip – even if it's only once or twice.
6Russell Warfield's Score