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Neutral Milk Hotel

+ {Jeff Mangum}

The brainchild of singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jefferson Mangum, Athens, Georgia-based NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL (originally with William Cullen Hart and Bill Doss before they bailed out to form The OLIVIA TREMOR CONTROL) were at the top of the Elephant 6 Collective heap that surfaced in the 90s; Robert Schneider (an APPLES IN STEREO recruit) was also a member and buddy of Jeff since their formative days growing up in Rushton, L.A. Mangum finally got NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL underway (after times as Cranberry Life Cycle and pre-OTC group Synthetic Flying Machine), releasing a series of obscure singles and demos before Cher Doll released the single `Everything Is’ in 1994.
Merge Records came on board for ON AVERY ISLAND (1996) {*7}, a record apparently recorded on Schneider’s bedroom four-track and released in the UK on the Fire imprint. The record itself – think The BEACH BOYS and SONIC YOUTH – bore inevitable comparison with OTC’s `Dusk At Cubist Castle’, if only for its fantastical concept strangeness. Not as overtly psychedelic as the latter album but rampantly experimental, the album was a collision of seemingly spontaneous, barely formed musical ideas, samples and sound effects, underlain by a frazzled pop genius and executed with delirious abandon.
Mangum continued to indulge his passion for conceptual weirdness with 1998’s IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA {*9}, a truly inspiring “fuzz-folk” set of lo-fi acid trips with the main man himself emotive and creative in equal degrees of greatness. The 3-parter `The King Of Carrot Flowers’ challenged the very existence of what folk music really was; and the band of Jeremy Barnes (before his A HAWK AND A HACKSAW days), Scott Spillane and Julian Koster were in cohesion and continuity on other gems like `Two-Headed Boy’, `Holland, 1945’ and the 8-minute `Oh Comely’ – the missing link between DYLAN and NIRVANA!
Vegan JEFF MANGUM meanwhile, continued as a solo artist, regurgitating old numbers (and PHIL SPECTOR’s `I Love How You Love Me’) on a LIVE AT JITTERY JOE’S (2001) {*7}; Orange Twin Records were also behind “Fields Works Volume 1”, a solitary 33-minute sojourn taking the listener into a festival in Bulgaria. In 2008, he married writer/filmmaker Astra Taylor, who worked with him five years later on a reprised NMH; could be that Mangum will fully reunify the group for gigs in the spring of 2015.
© MC Strong 2003-2011/GID-GFD2 // rev-up MCS Apr2015

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