Black Moth Super Rainbow : Eating Us
Since their inception, voice modulation devices—talkboxes, vocoders, auto-tune—have had their share of detractors: “They’re gimmicks!”, “You can’t actually sing!”, “You’re ruining music!” Yeah, yeah…I’ll tell you right up front, I don’t have any sort of general rule against them. In fact, I’m kind of in love with Zapp & Roger, Daft Punk, Polysics, Kanye West, and a number of other vocoder indulgers. And all you haters out there better get used to their existence or get ready to hate for a while longer, because they aren’t going away anytime soon. I mean, look what happened when Jay-Z recently declared the “Death of Auto-Tune.”
Wherever you stand on the issue, you should probably prepare yourself before listening to Black Moth Super Rainbow for the first time. With processed vocals that are extreme even in this Age of Auto-Tune, this duo has been operating on the fringes of psych-rock and electronica, filtering their obtuse sound through increasingly pop-laden overtones. Their latest album, Eating Us, finds them kicking up their accessibility considerably with help from producer Dave Fridmann, probably best known for his work with The Flaming Lips. Maybe Black Moth Super Rainbow wanted to capture some of the magic Fridmann conjured for MGMT on last year’s Oracular Spectacular. And true to his skill of fleshing out and streamlining a band’s sound, his guidance and production does help focus Black Moth Super Rainbow’s typically meandering sprawl of psychedelia. The songs here are surprisingly self-contained and full of catchy hooks, both melodic and percussive. The waves of synth on opening track “Born on a Day the Sun Didn’t Rise” leisurely coast over driving, syncopated beats while the hazy sway of “Gold Splatter” and “Smile the Day After Today” actually recalls The Flaming Lips’ psych-pop. The Fridmann collaboration is making more and more sense…
Yet, Black Moth Super Rainbow still manages to preserve some of their more bizarre elements on Eating Us, most notably their intensely modulated vocal work. Like I said before, I’m definitely a fan… but this might be too much, even for me. I know Black Moth Super Rainbow are, and have been, going for the “human after all” approach—”look, we’re robots with emotions!”—but, at a certain point it all becomes a little redundant and uninspired. They’re several albums deep at this point and while they’ve no doubt fiddled with the vocoder settings along the way, they’re still rockin’ that same basic theme. I still enjoy the record, but even with Fridmann’s contributions I doubt it will have the same staying power as many of the more indelible releases of 2009.
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