Opportunity is knocking for the Orchid Pool. The Elephant 6 collective has dissolved, leaving a big eccentric-psychedelic-pop-shaped hole behind them. For Poolers Tony and Kimberly Paglia, who've spent the last few years honing their multi-instrumentalist skills on a handful of increasingly accomplished CD-R releases, the spotlight is waiting -- and they've done themselves proud. The Imaginary Instruments EP
is the best thing they've done -- warm, clever, quirky and relentlessly tuneful.
Opener "When You Gonna See Things My Way" is an upbeat gem, somewhere between The Beatles and Ben Folds Five on the orch-pop spectrum. There's a little of everything here -- clarinet, xylophone, piano, French horn, trumpet and heaven knows what else, enlivened by almost martial percussion. Other than a bit of psych-friendly phasing on the chorus, it's straightforward stuff, with a jazzy instrumental coda on the end that gives the piano and wind instruments a little more action.
Kimberly makes a rare stop in the songwriter seat for the delightfully twee "Sea Monkeys", an insular, reverb-drenched tribute to everyone's favorite mail-order brine shrimp. The lyrics will hook anyone who ever pored over those fascinating Sea Monkeys comic book ads, which all but promised a sentient microscopic monarchy for a handful of pocket change. Quotes from the ad are dropped in over a sing-song chorus ("Guaranteed to grow for you!") and slide-guitar licks. "Up to three quarters of an inch long," says Tony. "Up to a year or more," Kimberly adds. Then there's this lyrical gem: "I can produce dozens of babies / inside my microview home / and they'll produce dozens of babies / so you'll never be alone." Brilliant.
"Lullaby for DeVon Smith" has no pop-cultural laughs to offer, but it's pretty as hell. Very Nick Drake -- a simple, dreamy folk-pop tune built on an acoustic guitar melody, decorated with cello and glittery xylophone accents. An organ bit near the middle offers a change of pace, but the real payoff here is the song's sheer lying-on-your-back-looking-at-the-stars dreaminess.
The EP's artwork is also worthy of note. The band approached elementary and middle school students in Georgia and Pennsylvania, and encouraged them to design and draw their own imaginary instruments, which were used as cover art. Each of the 500 seven-inch EPs has a unique cover drawn by a kid. You can view them at the band's web site. Many of them look like unused Of Montreal cover art, but far less schizophrenic. Charming.