Monday, August 6, 2012

Bill Doss (1968-2012)

My first reaction when I read that Bill Doss had died was to text a friend with the news, mentioning that I hoped the band had finished their new album already, or that they would at least go on to finish it without him. A new Olivia Tremor Control record is long overdue, seeing as how they've been 'reunited' for a few years and their last true album was in 1999, but I was still a little bothered that my main concern seemed to be the music and not the man.

However, I think that's how Bill Doss would want it. He and most of his generation, comprising the indie/underground scene of the 90s, were all about the mystery and anonymity of bands. I want to mourn the man but I don't really know him, so it's a strange mixture of feelings. I feel sad but for what, exactly? Well, I suppose I'm sad because this must mean the end of Olivia Tremor Control. It's hard to imagine the band going on with only one creative leader.

Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart, in fact, were the perfect musical foils. Doss favored the poppier end of the spectrum, and the music he made with The Sunshine Fix and The Apples (In Stereo) is a testament to this. Hart, on the other hand, was into the psychedelic and experimental end, making most or all of the tape collages and weird sonic elements in the band's sound. Sure, there was always a host of other musicians and friends involved, but Olivia Tremor Control was, at its core, Doss and Hart.

The band usually sounded like two record store employees fixated on the late 60s/early 70s psychedelic/pop scene, but their music never conformed to slavish devotion and imitation. If Music From The Unrealized Film Script: Dusk At Cubist Castle sounded like the best lost album of 1968 that never existed, it also sounded like the best lost album of 2008 that never existed, too. Indeed, it's easier to hear newer psychedelic/60s influenced bands  as being more influenced by the groundwork of Olivia Tremor Control than the actual bands of the past. I recently discovered Campfires, for example, whose music is a lot closer to the early lo-fi days of OTC than anything Pink Floyd or Cream ever did.

OTC's music was often about dreams and surreal situations, so much so that I assume Doss was purposefully focusing on things that transcended death and reality. Oddly, Will Cullen Hart announced he had MS a few years ago, so you might assume it was he who wanted to do transcend, or even, as I briefly thought, that it was he who had died. It's easy to explain my confusion since we know so little about the two, it's easy to confuse them. And since we know so little about their personal lives, it's impossible to know what the cause of Doss's death was.

And so I suppose without the explanation for the end of his story, and indeed without any part of story of the man besides the music he left behind, Bill Doss's music must stand in eternity for him.

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