Black Moth Super Rainbow - Biography
Fishing around in the mysterious waters of childhood lore and family folk tales, shape-shifting pranksters Black Moth Super Rainbow concoct a syrupy, sun-drenched brew of wildly original and dreamy pop songs. Technicolor they are -- techno they are not, using purely analog instruments like vocoder, Rhodes and monosynth and to create their mythical sonic world. Reluctant to show their faces and each going by a kooky alias, the Pittsburgh quintet hark back to the days of underground, enigmatic eyeball-headed legends, The Residents. They have invited a slew of genre descriptions like, indie, dance, electronica, pop, rock, freak folk, alternative, even hip-hop. And a vast array of words spring to mind when they’re being described: sugar, candy, lollipop, treacle, fairytale and acid rain. Psych-pop seems to be the one label that sticks, but BMSR do nothing if not their own thing. Notoriously reclusive, they avoid outside influences and apparently compose their songs in a cabin in the Pennsylvania woods, like a bunch of kids gathered around a campfire.
The first incarnation of the project, founded by vocalist Tobacco, was Allegheny White Fish — a teenage moniker that they supposedly came up with in 10th grade meaning (in Pittsburgh): condom floating down the river. The project became the little-known (by choice) satanstompincaterpillars, and in 2003 the caterpillars turned into moths, and the BMSR ensemble was complete with members, The Seven Fields of Aphelion on monosynth, Power Pill Fist on bass, Father Hummingbird on Rhodes and monosynth, and Iffernaut on drums.
Their self-released first album, Falling Through A Field (2003 BMSR) is a charming, lo-fi collection containing some material from satanstompingcaterpillars. It’s a series of eerie, raspy-voiced stories told through crackly grooves and woozy keyboard riffs. Start a People (2004 70s Gymnastics) continues in the same vein, with infectious synth hooks and seriously affected vocoder vocals. It gets heavier in places like “Vietcaterpillar,” a hypnotic, phlanged-out psysch groove, and it gets spooky in places, like the space-aged “Early 70s Gymnastics.” In 2006 BMSR collaborated with experimental synth post-rock band The Octopus Project on the acclaimed release The House of Apples and Eyeballs (Graveface Records).
The band’s third album, Dandelion Gum (2007 Graveface Records) sees BMSR as inventive as ever. They use their usual box of curios and retro keyboards here, to create some truly irresistible jams. “Melt Me” is a fuzzy, thumping psyche freak-out, and the gloriously trippy “Drippy Eye” is equally mesmerizing. In 2008, the band released an EP of unreleased and rare material, Drippers (Graveface) and a companion download-only collection called Bonus Drippers. Their next and most commercial sounding (it’s all relative) album, Eating Us (2008 Memphis Industries), was produced by Dave Fridman (Mercury Rev), and is a decidedly more polished record. Gone is the scratchy lo-fi aesthetic, which gives way to a much fuller sound. Still experimental and still wickedly mischievous (the record came out in limited edition “hairy” CDs), this is a fully actualized collection of pop songs that would not sound out of place in the hippest clubs or on the coolest airwaves. While the previous albums have a charming, messing-around quality, this one is a more mature effort, and it packs a cleaner punch. Smatterings of acoustic guitar and banjo sit gloriously in the aural field of loopy keyboards and synths. The euphoric, swirling wash of “Iron Lemonade” is a highlight, as is “Dark Bubbles,” an electro psych-pop masterpiece. Eating Us is a treasure, and BMSR manage to nod to a 60s bubblegum past, while simultaneously evoking a compelling futureworld where retro sounds melt into 21st century imagination.
There doesn’t seem to be a negative word out there for BMSR. They’re almost beyond criticism because they’re so genuinely singular -- they just do what they do, and how can you fault that? This is a band re-visiting their 1980s childhoods and making them into art; the result is a hodgepodge of impossibly catchy tunes and highly original neo-retro effects. These are playful and truly creative artists at work who have no fears or inhibitions (though they don’t show their faces or reveal their names). They’re capricious and they’re precocious. Plumbing the depths of fantasy, memory and story, they utilize and re-invent, cooking up heady potions and fantastic concoctions. It’s funny that they make you want to compare them to something to be consumed — It’s delicious, but it’s ethereal, dreamy food: whipped, twisted and pulled like multi-colored sonic taffy.