Release Date: May 13, 2014
Record label: Ghostly International
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Noise Pop
As with all the Tobacco albums so far, the frontman of Black Moth Super Rainbow dispenses with that group's sticky whimsy in favor of something harsher and noisier, but still insanely catchy and fun. Ultima II Massage is his first album for new label Ghostly International and it's probably his best so far. It's got everything one has come to expect in a Tobacco project -- the trademark woozily overloaded synths, his heavily treated vocals, the totally warped melodies -- only this time they are all turned up to ten.
‘Ultima II Massage’ is like a possessed ghetto blaster damaged beyond repair. It’s the record that Tom Fec has been trying to make under his Tobacco guise since he released ‘Fucked Up Friends’ in 2008, and it sounds absolutely revolting in the best way possible. Severely damaged, sometimes terrifying, and always enjoyable, it’s his most challenging album yet.Following on from 2010’s Beck-featuring ‘Maniac Meat’, the record gets back to the very skeletal basics of Tobacco, amplifying them to their extremes in the process.
Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman Thomas Fec, or TOBACCO, releases his third solo album Ultima II Massage, named after a massage parlor in Fec's home state of Pennsylvania—though as an album it's less a relaxing backrub and more a microdermabrasion treatment for your eardrums. Fec's solo recordings naturally share a lot with his band's leftfield electronica—heavily manipulated vocals, brutally squelching bass sounds underneath spacey analog synths—but taken to more experimental, noisy extremes than Black Moth's dreamier vibe. TOBACCO makes dance music for the apocalypse, when the audio equipment has all been damaged by nuclear disaster and thick swathes of fuzzy, scuzzy synth are all that's left to drown out the sound of screaming.
Tom Fec, better known as Tobacco from psych wizards Black Moth Super Rainbow, spent his teenage years making abrasive electronica on beat-up cassettes. For his third solo album (and first in four years), the Pittsburgh-based musician has revisited that sound, recreating a tape-melting wooziness that’s both infectious and unsettling. There’s unmistakable pop genius beneath the gritty hip-hop beats, vocoder refrains and hazy synths, but it’s deliberately dirtied and deformed.
An indecipherable and droid’d rasp and a clangor of splash cymbals drive home a breathing synthesizer chord as invigorating as it is unsettling. Streaker, the second of three singles pulled from Tobacco’s third solo release, Ultima II Massage, was kind enough to be fragmented and cool, a grand combination of flaws and crudity with an analog fetish intact. Muddy circuits: alive, but barely.
At the end of the '00s, Thomas Fec created the alter ego Tobacco to release music deemed too eccentric for his primary musical group, Black Moth Super Rainbow. And for anyone familiar with the bent vision of BMSR, this claim has tended to set-up some rather lofty expectations of Fec. On Ultima II Massage, his third LP as Tobacco, Fec has been quoted as saying that he wanted to make more "meditative music.
Ultima II Massage, the latest full-length from Tom Fec's Tobacco project, finds the Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman moving from the gently corroded Technicolor psych-prog of 2010’s Maniac Meat to a full-on barrage of wobbling, low-end-heavy bizarro pop. Fec’s work as Tobacco is frequently approached as a dichotomy of beauty and ugliness; on Ultima's front half, the "ugly" quotient has been ramped up to match the project's warped, grotty imagery. The album's standouts signify an evolved sound.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The latest from freaky breaks producer Tobacco riffs on past works while delving even deeper into the gelatinous melt of modern living. Like sniffing petrol fumes, the initial rush is swiftly followed by a long, hollow comedown. Surprisingly a resident of Pennsylvania rather than Los Angeles (which feels like it should be his spiritual home) the camera shy producer calls in Beck contributor Brian LeBarton to bring some Midnite Vultures skinny pimp chic to play on his third long player Ultima II Massage.
Though his music has frequently been gloppy, weirdo, disco-inflected fun, Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman Thomas Fec knew there was something darker going on when he chose the stage name Tobacco. In an interview with Skyscraper Magazine, Fec explained that his name came from a character from B-movie Redneck Zombies, The Tobacco Man, a creep with a distorted monster voice and a burlap bag over his head. In that context, the twisted psychedelia, masked aliases, and buzz-saw synths suddenly take on a far darker mien.
TOBACCO — Ultima II Massage (Ghostly)Black Moth Super Rainbow main man Tom Fec aka TOBACCO splits his time between making music that sounds like cLOUDDEAD meets Lortab meets the psychedelic hits from Magical Mystery Tour (though Fec doesn’t do drugs and hates The Beatles) and a robust merger between hip-hop, Black Sabbath, Giorgio Moroder’s From Here to Eternity and electro-prog pioneer’s Bruce Haack’s Electric Lucifer. So, aurally, Black Moth Super Rainbow is to wandering through an enchanted forest as TOBACCO’s latest efforts (from Maniac Meat to present) are to nervously creeping down darkened basement stairs (someone smashed the light bulb) where you’re possessed to participate in grisly, sexy, homicidal things. But the sickly sweet melodies and harmonic material — we’re talking Baroque structures here — gently warn you to not tell your wife what you did.
Perhaps Tobacco’s Eric Wareheim-directed B-horror version of Eyes Wide Shut has been seared into my mind like a cattle brand. Or perhaps Black Moth Super Rainbow leader Tom Fec has come into his moderately frightening own since 2010’s Maniac Meat. Either way, Fec is definitely more burning cigarette than trippy Rainbow on Tobacco’s third LP, Ultima II Massage.
Imagine, if you would, an issue of 2000 AD wherein Judge Dredd is presented with a fleet of criminals whose harnessing of incredible speed, the velocity of which had never before been seen, leaves them just out of reach of even Dredd’s long, vicious arm of the law; and into this picture inject the Judge’s help, a cobalt beast who moves like Mercury and talks like Michelangelo, and whilst Sonic the Hedgehog screams through Mega City One (ne Robotropolis?). The score you are almost certainly hearing is Ultima ll Massage, a guttural prog pop ran ragged through grime and industrial lubricant, so that some plurality of its personable sentiments are sloughed off, leaving what is left as no less appealing but certainly a touch worse for wear. In attempting to ditch the ripe-to-bursting pop sentiments of his band Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tobacco could be considered to have only triumphed partially, if at all; while the juicy, baited hooks of BMSR are nowhere to be found, even the most dystopian, disjointed moments of Ultima retain an approachable heart, and for an album wherein everything is meant both to be ugly and assaulting yet immersive in that Universe Music, quais-meditative, zonal ensconcing way, one must imagine that this compromise had to be struck, and with the somewhat mutually exclusive goals of its disparate parts, that it could be found at all is remarkable.