Thursday March 14, 2013

James McNewBlack Moth Super Rainbow

James McNew

Yo La Tengo

James McNew is a member of Yo La Tengo. You can follow him on Twitter here

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Album

Cobra Juicy

Black Moth Super Rainbow's records have always felt like getting a "thinking of you" card from a loving, possibly tripping robot.

Not like a really swanky hi-tech robot, just a cool, well-meaning neighborhood robot that you've known for a while. Maybe you went to school together. Wouldn't that be better than yet another record by plain old boring people?

Whatever Black Moth Super Rainbow actually is, their/its music is playful and strange, sunny yet melancholy. On record, tracks blur together in a comforting, deeply psychedelic ooze, familiar but undeniably alien. Sweetly Vocoded melodies flow over warm, deteriorated, warbling grooves — electronic, for sure, but somehow feeling more like a '70s educational filmstrip than a MIDI.
workstation.

Actually, Cobra Juicy isn't a filmstrip, but it's still distinctly pre-DVD — it's more like a LaserDisc™. Although this nearly warble-free growth may betray signs of actual human involvement, it's hardly a concession. Old synth and drum machine sounds are reworked and combined into something Utopian, blissful and luxurious, both futuristic and nostalgic.

This new batch of transmissions is more shiny than grimy, almost glammy in spots (such as the giddy stomp of "Windshield Smasher"). There's a cleaner, higher-fidelity instrument (?) sound and a noticeable move toward more traditional songwriting structures; lyrics, even. The results are evocative and disarming, in a way few human beings are. There are nods to/incorporations of classic European electronic weirdo visions, cooed ELO/MBV voices, utilitarian bit-crushed beats, and a slide guitar that immediately brings to (only my) mind the Boredoms side project Hanadensha's classic 1996 Narcotic Guitar LP.

It's a whole album of beautiful, fun, great-sounding music. More resolution, or less? More. More human, or less? Your call. Recommended for a special person or appliance. Talkhouse

Black Moth Super Rainbow

No one’s interpretation of what I do is wrong (and I like to leave it wide open to interpret), but it is always interesting to me when someone hears “robot” in there, only because it’s not what I set out to do. I like to think of the vocoder as an extension of a real voice that needs some (in my case, a lot of) help, where just about every other artist I’ve heard using a vocoder uses it for novelty. 

Someone said once that my vocoder is like the snake in the Garden of Eden, and that is almost exactly where I’m coming from.  I like to make it so you’re able to hear anything from a girl coming on to you, to demon possession - whatever you’re susceptible to. 

Really nice words from James McNew, though, so I hope the idea of my voice licking his ear won’t ruin this album for him!  But like I said - interpretation - so forget you ever read this. 

-Tom Fec

on 14-03-2013 12:09