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