Release Date: Oct 23, 2012
Record label: Rad Cult
Black Moth Super Rainbow couldn’t have picked a better name for a label to self-release their latest album under than “Rad Cult. ” The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania synth freaks - with their bizarre, masked identities, an enigmatic front man with a fetish for vocoders, and an overwhelmingly supportive and dedicated fan base (one worth over 120K on Kickstarter) - have discreetly taken on a more than cultish presence in the music world over the past few years. More important, however, is the first word in their labels name, which goes to explain why this cult exists in the first place: Black Moth Super Rainbow is one “rad” band.
A few years ago, Black Moth Super Rainbow went to the big city. While they were there, they made an album called Eating Us, with famed producer Dave Fridmann. It put a nice suit on the band's shaggy, perpetually woozy psych-pop, and cleaned things up a bit for better or worse. Then, everyone went their separate ways for a while.
Demonic citrus masks and an Eric Wareheim–endorsed Kickstarter to raise funds for a new album? It’s definitely none other than Black Moth Super Rainbow, the elusive Philadelphia collective flourishing in an alien world, where the weird and wonderful complexities within electronica reign. Latest release Cobra Juicy drips with the group’s trademark heady synthesizers, as well as infectious hooks and punchy electronica to craft their most melodic and accessible record to date. Great job! .
On Cobra Juicy, Black Moth Super Rainbow’s LSD-vision vocoder jams get a whole lot more user-friendly. The mysterious Pennsylvania quintet have never been afraid of alienating their audience with their trippy electro-pop experiments, but their Kickstarter-funded fifth album is a surprisingly linear beast, driven by sticky choruses and bottom-heavy beats—plenty of earworms to offset the weirdness. Frontman Tobacco still filters every vocal line through vocoder so thick, you can barely make out the lyrics (which is fine, really—why spoil the fun with words?), and on the whole, BMSR’s chilly brand of electro-pop isn’t likely destined for mainstream appeal—nonetheless, they’ve built on the promise of their previous effort, 2009’s Eating Us, by tightening the song structures and punching up the production.
No one believes themselves to be evil. The killer keeps pet pigeons. The thief drops change in a bum's cup as karmic reimbursement. Even Lucille Bluth would occasionally shed a tear if she could spare the moisture. Maybe Baudelaire put it best: the Devil's greatest trick is convincing people he ….
If you want to get really bitter about it, one could argue that Thomas Fec has made one hell of a career out of sounding like Thomas Fec. While his standalone name may not ring any immediate bells, his two big projects—Tobacco and Black Moth Super Rainbow—certainly do. Thomas Fec is Tobacco, and Tobacco is the frontman of Black Moth Super Rainbow, who used to be called satanstompingcaterpillars, who used to ...
At the beginning of 2012, Black Moth Super Rainbow announced on their website, "We're back!" Leaving fans confused by the implication that the Pittsburgh, PA quintet ever left in the first place. After three quiet years that saw band members release solo LPs, head honcho Thomas Fec (aka Tobacco) scrapped Black Moth Super Rainbow's expected full-length before recording Cobra Juicy, sans band members, with the help of an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign. Now nearly three-and-a-half years after their last LP, the rather languid Eating Us, Black Moth Super Rainbow's fifth release may not be their most resourceful work to date, but it's undoubtedly their most sublime.
2009's Eating Us showed Pennsylvania freak collective Black Moth Super Rainbow moving away from complete subterranean lo-fi weirdness with upped production values and a (relatively) clearer view of their psychedelic electro-pop. Cobra Juicy follows that album's expanded scope, dragging into the forefront the melodic dance pop gems that were always buried deep under layers of psychotic Dayglo sounds on earlier BMSR albums. Songs like "Hairspray Heart" and lead-off single "Windshield Smasher" are characterized by huge beats, demonic buzzsaw synths, and crunchy guitars, but the arrangements are relatively clean and organized, lacking the lo-fi kaleidoscopic haze of more organic albums like Dandelion Gum.
Abstraction has always played a large role in the appeal of Black Moth Super Rainbow. The hypnagogic stage names (the five band members go by Tobacco, Ryan Graveface, Iffernaut, Bullsmear, and The Seven Fields of Aphelion), the lyrics that are barely decipherable beyond the fact that they’re vocoded, and the dizzyingly psychedelic depths of synthesizers combined to make albums like Dandelion Gum both mystifying and enveloping. Unfortunately, though, the results necessarily diminish as each album piles up, as the listening audience becomes more familiar with the nuances of the band’s sound, and, simultaneously, as the band themselves become more familiar and confident with their ability to produce structured songs underneath that weird fog.
Imagine if Air’s ‘Moon Safari’ was more of the sort of safari Hemingway would’ve got blotto on and then fired his rifle at anything that moved. Imagine if the Black Keys had grown up with a more eclectic musical taste. Imagine if Death In Vegas had stayed as sinister but cared about writing pop songs. If we’ve done our job properly, you’ll have just imagined the exact sound of ‘Cobra Juicy’ and, to a greater or lesser extent, the entire career of Black Moth Super Rainbow themselves.Using your imagination is a large part of BMSR’s character, musically and otherwise; on stage and in the press they lurk in the shadows, WU LYF-like, preferring to exist under pseudonyms than given names and rarely giving interviews.
While a cobra is one of the most feared snakes in the world, it usually wont attack unless provoked. And although their venom is truly a toxic death call, there’s comfort in realizing that like other dangerous creatures: there is plenty of chance. Although Black Moth Super Rainbow’s fifth album, Cobra Juicy, doesn’t mention much about the craft of a cobra snake, the juicy inner linings of this expansive release conveys a sprawling and versatile creature all its own.
Maintaining anonymity and remaining an enigma aren’t necessarily the same thing. When Black Moth Super Rainbow first arrived it was cloaked in vague, nebulous signifiers—masks, goofy pseudonyms, heavily processed vocals, a reluctance to do interviews—that have now become go-to marketing hooks for bands, or brands, looking to establish a sense of mystery or distance in a world that prizes accessibility over everything. But in the years since the band’s first hazy, vocoder-heavy beginnings, the group, particularly its primary songwriter/figure-head Tobacco (Thomas Fec), has become glaringly accessible, going so far as to fund its latest album through an Eric Wareheim-assisted Kickstarter fund, including a $10,000 prize that lets fans fly out to Pittsburgh, PA, for a BMSR-hosted roller-skating party.
With increased production value and coherent construction, Cobra Juicy represents a designer drug compared to Black Moth Super Rainbow's back catalog of LSD-soaked synth pop. A basic structure of live drums, rock bass, and slide guitar comes topped with heaps of push-key counter melodies that sound like both a cosmic vortex and canned laser noises. Vocals through a vocoder heave breathy, loud, and so dominating that they mortar a wall of artificiality that won't let passion through.