Release Date: May 26, 2009
Record label: Graveface
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Electronic
This Pennsylvania quintet make sweetly robotic psychedelia, all vocoders, plinkety-plonk synths and whooshing sound effects, like Flaming Lips remixed by Boards of Canada. A trippy marvel..
Despite moves to make themselves as inaccessible to their audience as possible -- what with fake names like Tobacco, the cryptic descriptions of being from the woods of Pennsylvania, and a reliance on the Auto-Tuner that even T-Pain could question -- Black Moth Super Rainbow’s fine third album, Dandelion Gum, with its blooming flowers of psychedelic pop, found a more than accepting audience in 2006. Black Moth Super Rainbow’s improved fourth album, Eating Us, bears all the touches of a follow-up to a critically lauded work: larger sounds, a big name producer (Dave Fridmann) and a honed sense of purpose that forms the band’s best effort to date. Hiring on uber-producer Fridmann, who’s had more bombs than hits lately (see Tapes ‘n Tapes Walk It Off), seemed like an unnecessary gambit for Black Moth, considering they’d achieved the perfect sonic milieu for their sun-washed psych-outs on their own.
It must have become clear at some point in the beginning stages of planning their fourth album that something had to change for Black Moth Super Rainbow, that perhaps they had taken their sound as far as they could and needed an upgrade. It sounds like they got tired of making music in a dingy basement filled with melted candles and old pizza boxes and figured it was time to move to the big leagues. To that end, on Eating Us they've paired with Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev producer Dave Fridmann and made a record that is far slicker and pro sounding than anything they've done before.
Black Moth Super Rainbow are a dream for fans of weird and offbeat music: They've always seemed more a "collective" than proper band, trading on the whims of unknown numbers of masked and aliased folks. They have their own typeface, side projects (frontman Tobacco's 2008 album Fucked Up Friends), split EPs, and an enclave (Pittsburgh). Yet now Eating Us, the band's fourth album, emerging from undisclosed Pennsylvania woodland recording sessions to roost in producer Dave Fridmann's Tarbox Road Studios, the band's first professional recording experience.
There is something disconcerting about the promise of “the first fully hi-fi Black Moth Super Rainbow record”. That statement appears in the press release for Eating Us, so it is a perceived selling point for the album. Yet it will probably cause suspicion among listeners who favor the band’s lo-fi approach. After all, Black Moth Super Rainbow has built and maintained quite a mystique by creating distressed, rough-around-the-edges psychedelic pop that more resembles “found sound” than many products that actually carry such a label.
Whenever I hear the word ‘experimental’ uttered in front of 'electronica', my face breaks out in hives. That word appears to be music’s great get out of jail free card. Almost intentionally used to shield criticism, because the critic in most cases is probably thinking "I can’t pan this because I might be missing something". You’re wondering that maybe this is music that is so ‘experimental’ it is beyond your feeble level of comprehension.
The main difference between Black Moth Super Rainbow’s breakthrough Dandelion Gum and this yea’s Eating Us is producer Dave Fridmann. The heavy-handed wizard from western New York state is well-known for his work with everyone from Mercury Rev to Flaming Lips, and his partnership with the Moth was a wise choice. Fridmann’s predilection for ornamentation and layering can sometimes overwhelm, but here he’s met his match.