The Sunshine Fix

Age of the Sun (Emperor Norton)

Bill Doss, a key member of the Elephant 6 collective and a cofounder of Olivia Tremor Control, likes to refer to himself in print these days as "thebilldoss" or, when he's in a hurry, "tbd" -- both good examples of how he's able to freshen up familiar ingredients by giving them a clever twist. But Age of the Sun, a sort of solar concept piece by the Sunshine Fix, Doss's latest project, might be an even better one.

This particular Fix isn't so much a band as an opportunity for Doss and pals like the Four Corners' Ryan Lewis and Of Montreal's Derek Almstead to dive headlong into the sort of psychedelic pop that makes them dizzy with delight. Granted, their influences aren't exactly obscure: The title cut, which opens the LP, begins with jubilant harmonies straight from the Beach Boys' time machine, while the melody of "Sail Beyond the Sunset" so closely mirrors the one in the Beatles' "Dear Prudence" that some listeners may be tempted to check the album's cover to see if it's turned white.

But this isn't the sort of homage that's motivated by a fatal shortage of originality -- far from it. Doss is a compulsive spewer of ideas, and he loves to sew as many of them together as he can in an attempt to make new fashions out of old material. Consider, for instance, the way "Ultraviolet Orchestra," a sonic fragment constructed largely of cello sawing, bleeds into "That Ole Sun," a thumping slab of freak-out fusion that's transformed midstream into a good-natured sing-along ("It seems to me that that ole sun still comes up anyway"). And what about "See Yourself," whose hippie sentiments, call-and-response vocals, buck-snorting bass lines, wailing guitars, and burbling synthesizers eventually collapse into a steaming heap of exuberance? These kids nowadays...

Folks attracted to the Sunshine Fix only by the catchy nature of its hooks may feel resentful when things turn bizarre, as they do on "Inside the Nebula," a recording of fuzzy guitars that stops and starts like a Plymouth with a busted gearbox, or on the concluding "Le-Roi Soleil," in which the crooning of a single word -- "sun," predictably enough -- is stretched out to more than 20 minutes in length. (Kinda makes the final tone of "A Day in the Life" seem like a 16th note, doesn't it?) But without such detours, Age of the Sun wouldn't hold nearly as much fascination for the rest of us. Not to mention thebilldoss.

 
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