Olivia Tremor Control: “Can You Come Down With Us?” (Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle, 1997)

In 2002, when the Elephant Six Recording Co label stopped appearing on album artwork, I felt like I’d lost a friend. Will Cullen Hart’s little psychedelic doodle had been inviting me to listen since I’d bought Olivia Tremor Control’s Dusk at Cubist Castle in 1998. That album was a big part of my introduction to indie rock, though I originally bought it because descriptions of it made it sound similar to older music I already liked. 

Even after I became aware that not everyone associated with Elephant Six was a genius, and not every release was going to be worth my time, I still kept an eye out for that little logo, and I almost always bought the record that sported it. If nothing else, I knew I’d get something tuneful but sonically adventurous, and there was a kind of funhouse appeal to the collective’s aesthetic world, where even the most threatening thing around was candy-colored.

When the records weren’t perfect, there was still a sense of possibility in the music, of places explored and experiences shared. A lot of people around my age hunted for that logo and got a lot of joy from the music it brought to them (and, okay, a small pile of Music Tapes and Dressy Bessy albums I didn’t care to listen to again).

And the best albums to bear the logo, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, When Your Heartstrings Break, Black Foliage, Fun Trick Noisemaker, and Dusk at Cubist Castle-those early E6 Of Montreal albums might come as a bit of a surprise to fans of what the band became after the end of E6.

E6 is sort of a thing again—the logo started popping back up in 2007, and a bunch of members of the collective toured together in 2008, and Olivia Tremor Control were of course touring again when Bill Doss passed away this Tuesday—and I hope it doesn’t go away completely again. The sense of community and collaboration inherent to E6 is refreshing and sort of comforting in an age where I almost never spend time in the same room as the vast majority of people I know, family and friends alike. 

E6 had humble beginnings. Four high school friends in Ruston, Louisiana—Cullen Hart, Doss, Robert Schneider and Jeff Mangum—shared tapes with each other and made music, then stayed in touch when they dispersed to Denver and Athens, Georgia. they played on each other’s albums, toured together with their various projects, and welcomed the like-minded into the fold. They were good at what they did, and I don’t think indie rock would be where it is now if they hadn’t done it. 

Losing Bill Doss this week threw into relief the things he gave us, and they were wonderful things indeed.