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Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum

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Artist: Black Moth Super Rainbow

Album: Dandelion Gum

Label: Graveface

Review date: May. 14, 2007

Imagine a pile of controlled substances that could cumulatively spur someone to drop out of a four-year college. Well, more like the art of dropping out. I knew one kid in college – this being a mid-‘90s playground of positivity and activism, and the attendant decrease in individual expectations and responsibilities – who was trying to get a 0.0 GPA for a particular semester. Since one of his parents was a professor and he was on a free ride, this ended up as not only a grab for attention, a show of post-teenage force, but also remarkably difficult to achieve without fucking up one’s life on a more lasting basis. Leering around on the campus lawn, under the influence of a packed bowl and handfuls of acid tabs, mushrooms, Ecstasy and mini-thins, depending on the day of the week, this young man soon learned how hard it is to fill up a day doing nothing. But as he hallucinated, he later explained, it wasn’t the inability to function that got to him as much as the peer pressure to let up on the lifestyle. Sitting around in the sun, he said, looking cool and seeing rainbow pyramids rise up out of the horizon as his personality sublimated into the roots of a tree, was something he could have done all day, for as long as he lived.

Studiously removed from the shit-talk and jagged edges of their nearby Pittsburgh music scene, Black Moth Super Rainbow have accomplished this feat. They’ve isolated themselves for the past three years since their second full-length, the Anticon-suffused Start a People, and withdrawn any efforts to follow that path once again, spinning from producer demo reels to a full-fledged live electronic pop band, living in catalog-showroom luxury, with all the professional, push-button exuberance of ‘70s library music. Five members (who have given themselves time-specific pseudonyms like Tobacco and Power Pill Fist) man a pair of drum kits, Yamaha keyboards, Rhodes piano, guitar, bass and various percussives, with no sequencers around, and blast audiences with a sinus-filling haze of wet, shiny synth-pop, dazed from the sun and in love with its surroundings.

There always needs to be some manner of backstory with acts like this, something that certain people need to ground their sanity in some sort of lysergic, fairytale rhetoric. With Dandelion Gum, the tale is of witches who make candy in the woods. Whether the script works with or against you in the enjoyment of their works is immaterial; the group’s sound stands proudly on its own. Pillowy beds of synth strings float in over the kind of bass generated by an Asteroids cabinet at an arcade, but Black Moth aren’t here to drone. The 16 tracks on Gum, some cribbed from stopgap releases, all bear pronounced rhythms, strong melodies, and the cooling mechanisms of jazz and exotica to provide the air of detachment required to sell this sound. Much in the same way as Air’s tragic score to The Virgin Suicides, or Broadcast’s low-tech departure Tender Buttons succeeded, BMSR gets by largely on the melancholic, just-waking-up moods afforded by simple tunes, tagged along by doubled, vocoded heynonnynonnies. Theremin squelch and thick, dirty beats jet around at boxed corners, just above water, while acoustic guitar and the occasional flute and sitar passage offers instructive, gentle sternness to the palette.

By the third track on Dandelion Gum, you’ve essentially heard the full complement of BMSR’s sound; the accordion moonwalk of “Forever Heavy,” the breathy ballad “Jump Into My Mouth and Breathe the Stardust,” and the busy, leisure-suited game show antics of “Melt Me” define what you’re in store for, sometimes in combinations of the three. That said, there’s still a lot of mileage to be squeezed out of this sound when handled correctly, and as you see groups similar in presentation like The Go! Team struggling to duplicate their past successes, the sturdiness of BMSR’s master template becomes all the more viable. It’s a well-programmed outing either way, with an even balance of uptempo and contemplative tracks, bolstered by a late-album punch of energy, courtesy of “Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods” and “Caterpillar House.” Dandelion Gum concludes, however, as a product of its makers rather than the times, the attitude required for this sound to succeed, and to engender repeat listens.

Summer’s here early. Outside with you.

By Doug Mosurock

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