Major Organ and the Adding Machine is one of the stranger rock albums to come out of the Elephant 6 recording collective, a group of like-minded bands who all play throwback '60s psych-rock. With a cast of mystery musicians (the label won't reveal who plays on it) lead by Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum, the album is a psychedelic journey of effects, fragments, and found sounds. The closest to this any band has come to this type of rampant experimentalism is Olivia Tremor Control's Black Foliage, a record that perfectly meshed those strange elements with inviting pop appeal. This album does no such thing, keeping listeners at a distance while bombarding them with sound effects. While Black Foliage used collage elements to connect fully formed songs, Major Organ just uses them as an end to themselves. There is no sense of satisfaction when the "real" songs do kick in -- they are just more of the same jumbled mess of lo-fi production tricks. Mangum clearly wants to sound bizarre, a bent that allows for rampant originality, but unfortunately, not much in the way of truly great songs. Unlike Olivia Tremor Control's experiments, which manage to be astounding while maintaining a feeling of amateurish fun, Mangum's attempts are both far less successful and oddly forced -- like trying to remake Fletch into a dramatic movie; a daunting task but one with little, if any payoff.
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AllMusic Review by Ari Wiznitzer