of Montreal blend a decidedly classic set of influences with modern production sensibilities to create piece of art that coalesces into something unique on their latest release, Innocence Reaches. Band visionary Kevin Barnes and his collaborators achieve a new level of balance and accessibility to their efforts while merging vintage and modern electronic dance music. By giving listeners a familiar starting point, synth-heavy pop of the early eighties, Barnes and company are able to explore and create something new without worrying that they have lost their listeners along the way.It’s easy to look at of Montreal’s entire history as an incredibly extended and inscrutable love letter to merging art and perfect pop from band visionary Kevin Barnes. In of Montreal’s twenty years of existence, they have followed a wide variety of sonic directions, to varying degrees of success and acceptance. Devout fans anticipate each album trusting that while of Montreal might bring a different style to their each of their recordings, the spirit and passion behind them will permeate the project. Innocence Reaches seems like an effort to expand their audience rather than court their existing fan base, and these more open and airy songs will likely do just that.Crafting tunes like the intro track “Let’s Relate,” a song that could easily be on the play list of any Top 40 station across the nation in 1985, Barnes and company show a sharp eye for details. Vintage drum machine beats guide the tune and much of the record bring a simple nostalgic charm to the proceedings, at least on the surface. Lyrically the material skews in an oddly immature direction, as songs like “It’s Different For Girls” and “My Fair lady” crackle with pop energy but contain almost child like views on gender issues. In a way, in playing music styles from the past of Montreal has apparently decided to “Method Act” out their regression as well.Brief escapes from the album’s theme like the fuzz box guitar laden “Les Chants de Maldoror” evoke earlier, rockier efforts but “A Sport And A Pastime” quickly brings back the bubbly pop. It’s difficult to decipher exactly what Nicolas Dobbratz and Clayton Rychlik are doing in the perfect production sheen that the notoriously finicky Barnes leans towards, but the dexterity the pair show over the course of Innocence Reaches clearly establishes their ability to craft whatever soundscape is asked of them with style.One of the risks of relying heavily on technological instrumentation is the potential loss of connection between the artist and the listener, but on Innocence Reaches the band side-steps those dangers through charm and inescapable hooks. “Ambassador Bridge” blips and bleeps along with the most danceable retro-disco beat of the collection that, as usual, disguises a darker lyrical point. Treading towards the psychedelic darkness of sixties era pop “Chaos Arpeggiating” makes great use of break downs and negative musical space.Closing track “Chap Pilot” finds of Montreal at a bit of a musical cross roads. The band has slowly been wandering down a more and more electronic focused path on this and their previous release, Aureate Gloom. Though there still seems to be room to grow and refine their current mission to mix dance music of the past and present, the abrupt cut off at the end of the disc seems to portend yet another dimension coming in the future. Easily one of the great charms of Montreal brings to the table is their ability to reinvent themselves on the fly. The one thing that you can safely assume about of Montreal is that whatever direction they decide to pursue their muse it will make for some intriguing listening, as this new release evocatively proves.
By Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaAfter a cool spring that delayed the growth of Georgia’s vegetable crop, harvest has started. Overall, the crop is plentiful and looks good, says a University of Georgia horticulturist.From late April to early July, Georgia becomes a main source for some fresh vegetables like yellow squash, snap beans, sweet corn and peppers, said Terry Kelley, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.Chilly weatherBut Georgia’s crop is late. Cool spring temperatures slowed its growth. The average daily temperature for much of southeastern Georgia in March was 5 to 10 degrees cooler than March 2004, according to UGA’s Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network.Temperatures have warmed in the past three weeks. “But we’re still having periods of cool, damp conditions,” Kelley said. “And we still haven’t seen many of the regular 90-degree days and 70-degree nights.”Georgia usually ranks third or fourth in the nation in vegetable production. California, No. 1, harvests about 50 percent of the U.S. spring vegetable crop. Florida, No. 2, harvests about 23 percent.Florida’s vegetable crop was late, too, because of the cool spring. States north of Georgia experienced the same cool weather.“Most of the vegetable crops around the southeast have been pretty much delayed because of cool weather,” he said.There may be slightly fewer vegetables this spring compared to last spring, he said, but there is still an ample supply.Consumers usually don’t see big price swings in the grocery stores, unless there is a disaster that takes out a lot of planted acres or keeps farmers from harvesting, Kelley said.Tropical storms in September hurt last fall’s vegetable crops in Florida and Georgia. Supply was low. Prices were high for growers. And consumers saw higher prices for some vegetables like tomatoes.Georgia farmers can usually plant two vegetable crops, one in early spring and another in late summer, because of the state’s mild, subtropical climate.Supply good. Prices, too Fewer vegetables this spring, Kelley said, would be a good thing for Georgia growers. Last spring’s crop was big. Farm prices were low.Prices are good for most Georgia vegetables now. A bushel of Georgia snap beans costs about $16 at the Atlanta Wholesale Market. This time last year, a bushel was about $8.50. A 30-lb box of yellow crookneck squash is selling for about $24 to $26 now, about twice as much as the same time last year, according to U.S. Department of Agricultural reports.Georgia farmers have a window to harvest and sell their fresh vegetable crop. As temperatures warm in spring, vegetables begin to ripen in areas further north. The market follows fresh vegetables. Georgia’s fresh harvest begins after Florida’s harvest, which starts in late February and early March. On a good year, the vegetable harvest in Georgia is winding down as it begins in other states like Tennessee and North Carolina. Because the crop was delayed, however, this may not happen this spring, Kelley said.Northern vegetables may begin to ripen now in the warm weather and begin to flood Georgia’s market window before harvest can end. This could drive prices down.The state’s vegetable crop is worth about $900 million each year.