Bill Doss of Olivia Tremor Control, RIP: Hear His Legacy in 15 Tracks

How the Elephant 6 co-founder and indie-psych pioneer left his gorgeous mark

Bill Doss / Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns via Getty Images
Bill Doss / Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns via Getty Images
WRITTEN BY
Jesse Jarnow

THE FIVE BEST DEEP CUTS

1. The Sunshine Fix - "Leonard Upon Entering the Fish Market (speaks of apple butter)" (1993)
While Olivia Tremor Control co-founder Will Hart would be known as the band's multi-tracking concept-dreamer, Doss was no less the experimenter, despite his lifelong battle with McCartneyism. Like McCartney himself (the Beatle who partied with Stockhausen, after all), Doss dipped into sound-sculpting weirdness, as on "Leonard Upon Entering the Fish Market (speaks of apple butter)," which coalesces into a chaotic groove despite Doss's best efforts at dada.

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2. The Olivia Tremor Control - "A Sunshine Fix" (1994)
The penultimate track from the Olivia's debut 7-inch — released by the semi-real Elephant 6 Recording Company headed by chief Apple in Stereo Robert Schneider — would give Doss' solo project a name. The horns (played by one of an unidentified "cast of numbers of a few") were the kind of sloppy indie-rock inspirado that Jeff Mangum would highlight in Neutral Milk Hotel, an Elephant 6 signature that would serve to transform thousands of band geeks into rock musicians… even if most of the charm here is Doss actually singing just as many horn parts himself.

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3. The Olivia Tremor Control - excerpts from Explanation II: Instrumental Themes and Dream Sequences (1997)
It's hard to say what Bill Doss is playing exactly on the shimmering album of companion ambient jams to Dusk at Cubist Castle, but (as per legend) much of it was recorded on various Athens back porches of various communal digs — hence the rain and crickets and barking dogs. If this is true, it matters even less who's playing what, as long as he or she added to the atmosphere — and one can't imagine anybody being a member of Elephant 6 if they didn't.

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4. The Sunshine Fix - "The Sound's Around You" - (2000)
Though the harmonies underneath the horns insure that lazy critics might still make Beatles comparisons, the lead track of the first extended Sunshine Fix release since 1993's The Spiraling World of Pop reaches for someplace far funkier. A dancing, nearly disco bassline presages the sugar-pop of seconnd generation E6er Kevin Barnes, whose Of Montreal would carry the thread of Doss's McCartney fixation beyond all conceivable sunsets.

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5. The Sunshine Fix - "That Ole Sun" (2002)
Arguably the definitive evidence of Doss's sunshine-pop mastery, beginning with a minute of light-show-ready surf-kraut bounce before spinning effortlessly into a Revolver-perfect verse, and — after almost another minute exactly — a bridge that wouldn't be out of place on Meet the Beatles, all without losing the loping bassline that made the surf-kraut bounce so bouncy to begin with!

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