Davey Wrathgaber, the off-kilter poet, songwriter and humorist who calls himself The Visitations,
approaches each new album with a theme in mind. What prevents any of the records from becoming
too self-aware (as many "concept" albums become) is Wrathgaber's careful disregard for strict narrative
guidelines in favor of focusing on writing well-constructed pop songs that challenge the listener to
On The Conundrum Tree, the third release under The Visitations moniker, Wrathgaber (who formerly performed in
Fablefactory, Elf Power) contributes thoughtful passages to the black comedy that is love, hate and the
nothing between. The album, which features Athens notables Derek Almstead, Jason NeSmith and Matt
Hudgins, seamlessly combines literate, often farcical, always clever lyrics a la Smog, Magnetic Fields and
Will Oldham with the tasty, psychedelic hooks that helped cement The Visitations' home town of
Athens, Ga. as the 'Pop Metropolis of the South.' Some of the vocal melodies are pushed forth with a
desperate sense of urgency not unlike those of The Mountain Goats; some hummed like a walk on a
sun-drenched summer day in a sing-songy Southern town; and others whispered with the eerie
omniscience of a man travelling backwards in time.
The Conundrum Tree marks The Visitations' first release on Orange Twin Records, the Athens, Ga.-based
label and eco-friendly development cooperative which has released recordings by Jeff Mangum, The
Late B.P. Helium and Elf Power. A long-time Elephant 6 collaborator, Wrathgaber has done production
work for The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel and contributed to records by Mendoza Line
and Of Montreal.
While The Visitations' credentials seem to slot the act neatly within the kaleidoscopic Utopia that is
Athens psych pop scene, Wrathgaber's lyrical cynicism and penchant for political argie bargie hint at a
greater insolence than that of many of its twee pop contemporaries. The Visitations' 2005 political
humor release Propaganda, which lampoons the American election news cycle, sparked criticism from
neo-cons and the Georgia Democratic Party alike. The band's ensuing visit to its Congressman's office in Washington D.C. to discuss the flag burning amendment caused a stir with local media and reportedly led to some Athens City Council members naming The Visitations in an off-the-record discussion about musical acts that should be banned from outdoor performances. It is also rumored that Wrathgaber's rabble-rousing left him with a broken nose after a late-night political "debate" with a pack of Savannah, Ga. skinheads.
An English teacher at a technical college by day, Wrathgaber is the exception that proves the rule that "those who cannot do, teach." His mastery of the paradoxical possibilities of American English is evident throughout The Conundrum Tree-the lyrics are full of welcome surprises and often pair absurdities with truisms, the ingenious with the inane. Recorded entirely in home studios, The Conundrum Tree serves at once as reassurance that the DIY freak folk scene is alive and kicking and as a testament to the idea that albums can be weird-or even disturbing at times-without sacrificing the musicality and substance that increasingly engage the listener with each new spin.