Aug 12

Olivia Tremor Control: “A Place We Have Been To” (R.I.P. Bill Doss)

The Olivia Tremor Control -- Black Foliage

R.I.P. Bill Doss

Yesterday was another sad day in the world of music, although you might have missed it, since this wouldn’t quite get the coverage of, say, Whitney Houston’s death. But in the world of quality music, this was bigger: Bill Doss of the Olivia Tremor Control was found dead yesterday, with no cause of death yet given (or known). Doss co-led the group with Will Cullen Hart, and was responsible for their sunnier, more melodic songs, with his fittingly “sweet” vocals, while Hart represented the more experimental workings of the band. Together, along with Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo and Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, they also co-founded the Elephant 6 Collective, responsible for so much great music over the past 15 years or so.

I had heard recent rumblings of a possible return to recording by the Olivia Tremor Control, and had been looking forward to hearing what was to come of that. They were, after all, the second song I ever posted on Reselect, back when I was figuring out the tone to set for this blog. Sadly, though, a reunion will never happen now. There’s not much more I can say about this tragic loss at such a young age (Doss was only 43) except to recommend you listen to Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage, their only two true studio albums, to try to understand what made them so great if you’re not already a fan.

“A Place We Have Been To” comes from their second album, 1999’s Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One (there was no Volume Two), an album evenly split between catchy psychedelic pop songs (mostly Doss’s doing) and off-the-wall psychedelic sound collages (presumably mostly Hart’s). It takes a few listens to get the hang of it, but the sound collages help the songs they surround stand out even more clearly, pushing them to the forefront when they appear. Taken as a whole, Black Foliage does indeed seem like animation music; more specifically, it sounds like what happened to the animated Beatles on the Yellow Submarine after the movie of the same name was over and the audience left the theater. The submarine continued on to Black Foliageland — and you can practically see the odd creatures running around in conjunction with the songs and sounds on this album. At some point John turns to Paul and says, “Hey, Paul…methinks this is A Place We Have Been To!” And then suddenly we see the Olivia Tremor Control emerging from a giant anemone, playing this song.

Well, it would be nice to think that Bill Doss is enjoying a scene like that somewhere, anyway.


  1. Zot says:

    Wow, I’m really bummed to hear about Doss’ untimely death. OTC was a big fave of mine. Thanks for posting this.

    1. I was pretty shocked too — you just don’t expect anything like that when they’re still young.

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