For more than 10 years, Kevin Barnes has labored alone at molding Of Montreal’s kaleidoscopic recorded vision. This arrangement has its benefits—Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? would lack a crucial element of claustrophobia if it had been recorded in a proper studio—but it also meant there was no one around to rein in the wilder digressions of 2008’s Skeletal Lamping. Enter cult producer/film composer Jon Brion, who expands False Priest into a widescreen affair of freaky, funky psychedelia by splashing lively strings and synthesizer textures across Barnes’ songs, while also giving them a fat low end reportedly inspired by A Tribe Called Quest and Dr. Dre.
Still, False Priest is unmistakably a creation of the post-Hissing Fauna Of Montreal. (There’s not a lot of talk about zombies and black-body radiation on those old Tribe and Dre albums.) Percolating basslines weave through every track, while Barnes, sounding more comfortable than ever in his Prince-ly falsetto, pushes into increasingly purple territories. Aided by guest vocalists Janelle Monáe and Solange Knowles, Brion succeeds in pulling the bandleader out of his own head, but he’s yet to fully shed Skeletal Lamping’s occasionally frustrating flightiness. This time, however, Barnes waits for his songs to end before flitting from stomping glam (“Coquet Coquette”) to Berlin Trilogy creepy-crawlies (“Around The Way”) to trunk-rattling P-Funk bump. On False Priest, the spirit of collaboration does for Of Montreal on record what it has done for the band’s live show, building a thrilling, carnival-like atmosphere around Barnes’ fractured perspective.