The lo-fi psychedelia of Elephant 6

Mangum's music is laced throughout with the hummable melancholia of a deserted carnival midway; indeed, the cover of On Avery Island features an old photo of a park full of merry-go-rounds. His songwriting style is particularly visually oriented: On one of his periodic visits to Denver, Mangum says, "I spent a lot of time in the library," photocopying old New York Times accounts of World's Fairs and New Year's Eves.

Available on July 9, the Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk at Cubist Castle has its own share of sideshow imagery. Did Ruston have a carnival that might've infiltrated the Elephant 6ers' music?

"Oh yeah," Doss laughs, "with that big ride, the Zipper, that my cousin always threw up on. Every fall, right before Halloween, the carnival would come through."

Dusk at Cubist Castle is a sprawling collection of effusive harmonies, disarming tape-speed manipulations, and a number of nicely crafted instrumentals. Early pressings have an additional disc's worth of ambient "field recordings" -- the water drips, bird calls, and passing cars of rural Georgia, underscored by My Bloody Valentine-like guitar processing. The whole effect is most definitely psychedelic. "It's a good word," Hart says. "Psychedelic can be [John Coltrane's] A Love Supreme or Sgt. Pepper or, like, Zen." Now that its founders have begun recording for better-established labels, the Elephant 6 Recording Co. has gone dormant. "I ran out of money when we started touring," Schneider says. "Pretty much everything went out of print."

"Now, the music is from the Elephant 6 pool of talent, the family. It's as if we have this machine called Elephant 6, and you press a button and a song pops out. It doesn't matter if you're selling it at Wal-Mart or Target, it's still an Elephant 6 song."

There's a mutual sense of excitement and encouragement under the Elephant 6 umbrella. Of the Apples and Neutral Milk Hotel records, Olivia's Doss gushes, "They sound classic." Though they're "fuzzy as hell, and overdriven, they don't sound like indie rock."

"We kind of all do the same thing," he says. "I'm hoping that one day we're all in the same band. I feel like if it weren't for the home-recording revolution, it would have been four guys from one town playing together. Instead, we sat around making tapes for each other."

The Apples in Stereo play Sunday, July 14, at the Kilowatt, 3160 16th St., S.F.; call 861-2595.

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