May 30, 2006

Black Moth Super Rainbow "Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods"

Pittsburgh collective Black Moth Super Rainbow is in love with the sounds of cheap and/or vintage keyboards — the Casio’s dinky chime, the Rhodes’ percussive skip and the Moog’s flatulent squeal. With each successive release, BMSR jettisons a superfluous element of its music in order to give listeners a stronger concentration of the analog warmth that only those aforementioned instruments can provide. On their 2004 album Start a People, BMSR replaced the raspy whispers that made their previous work an acquired taste with the smoother sound of the Vocoder. On their followup EP Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods, they got rid of the slow, queasy vibrato that made many critics — yours truly included — compare Start a People to Boards of Canada. Since BMSR gives its songs pastoral titles like “Flowers Grow Here” and “They Live in the Meadow,” I feel comfortable using the following metaphor: as trees are pruned of dead branches in order to yield more fruit, BMSR’s sonic pruning ensures that each release is better and more unique than its predecessor.

Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods boasts some of the group’s most upbeat material yet. The title track begins with an ascending melody played on a Rhodes piano, which is then drowned out by booming drum programming straight out of a Chemical Brothers record. A hissing synthesizer line swoops in during the second half, and the song ends with the brash sound of gongs being struck. Before the song can come to a full stop, it is interrupted by second track “Caterpillar House,” which sounds like an even faster version of the title track. Every song segues right into the next, giving the EP a suite-like flow; the brief, minimal ditties gain more purpose when book-ended by longer, more developed tracks. By itself, the 90-second “Chinese Witch Guy with an Ax” is merely a low-fi loop experiment that happens to have an awesome title. It sounds better, though, when placed between the wistful Mellotron fugue “Drippy Eye” and the live-band funk of “Flowers Grow Here.”

As with BMSR’s previous work, listening to this EP makes me feel as if I’m being serenaded in the sunshine by the universe’s most benevolent aliens. I can’t understand what they’re singing, but that’s what they get for using Vocoders! This group’s music comes from a parallel universe that I wouldn’t mind getting Lost in more often.

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