BLACK MOTH SUPER RAINBOW @ BLUEBIRD THEATER | 5/17/13 Near the end of its set, Black Moth Super Rainbow performed "Sun Lips," one of its signature older songs. While some people sang along a bit earlier in the show, it seemed like everyone up front knew the words to this particular song and sang along dramatically, with their arms raised and waving as the song rose and fell in its hypnotic, syrupy whorls of layered melody. For a song that is so ethereal and just shy of whimsical on record, live its expansive sonic structure and transporting repetition had a visceral quality that made it feel like some kind of dance song even though it really isn't.
When Black Moth took the stage, there was little in the way of preamble. With Iffernaut wearing a hood with a mask covering the lower part of her face, and Tobacco wearing a hood of his own, the band started its set with "Hairspray Heart." Unlike perhaps some of the outfit's performances, there was a truly organic feel to the sounds, even though Tobacco sang through a vocoder and both he and The Seven Fields of Aphelion played electronic instruments.
Iffernaut's drumming was more controlled and expressive than was the case with her performance in Denver last summer. Pony Diver, who stood in the background nearly unseen by the audience, made his presence very felt as his low end accented and helped drive the atmospherics. Ryan Graveface employed such an array of sounds and textures on his guitar that it gave the songs another layer of depth.
The set largely drew from the group's latest album, Cobra Juicy, one of the great records of 2012, but the presentation was much different from the album. Here, Black Moth opted for an even more analog performance with the songs utilizing the instrumentation in a way that emphasized the non-electronic aspects of the sound.
Some surprises included a rendition of "I Think It Is Beautiful That You Are 256 Colors Too," that was updated with a new set of sounds, and "Smile Heavy," which sounded like a hip-hop song with the way Iffernaut accented the beat. The main set ended with "Like a Sundae," and that was quickly followed by the encore, which included "The Wettest Day," one of the songs that didn't make it on to Cobra Juicy but that did make it on to the Psychic Love Damage EP.
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The guitar intro for that tune sounded like a slowed-down early Blur song, but soon a a dense, kaleidoscopic array of sounds thickened the song up. The show ended with "Forever Heavy," appropriately enough, with a heady frisson of all the instruments coming together to make a blowout of blissed-out harmonics and melodious noise.
Earlier in the evening, Oscillator Bug started the night off manning his banks of synths, which included an Arp Odyssey. But he didn't just operate the electronics, this guy moved and danced and emoted with fervent passion seen in his face and constant motion as well as in his vocals. He sounded like a bit like David Byrne but less affected.
Musically, it was like pre-ambient Brian Eno but entirely electronic and backed by motorik beats. His electronic sounds did indeed seem to oscillate as he set them into motion as he controlled another aspect of the music, but he masterfully made it all work, and he won the crowd over handily and ended his set by just shutting down the music and waving as he left stage. It was an abrupt ending, but it was to the point and ultimately it was a strong performance.
The Hood Internet's Steve Reidell played mash-ups of classic and modern hip-hop with older pop and indie rock and more modern faire. It felt more like live remixing than merely mash-up, and that's what made it viable. Reidell put together songs people knew in terms of lyrics with music many of us have heard or knew in other contexts, like Tyga's "Rack City," which he mixed with Neon Indian's "Polish Girl."
It was almost like Girl Talk, only the songs weren't spliced together so much as recontextualized by taking the wordless music and putting different words to it. Instead of taking bits and pieces and creating a new song, whole sections were layered atop one another to give it a new meaning and sound without compromising the charms of each.
Black Moth Super Rainbow Bluebird Theater - 5/17/13 Denver, CO
01. Hairspray Heart 02. I Think I'm Evil 03. Windshield Smasher 04. Smile Heavy 05. I Think It Is Beautiful That You Are 256 Colors Too 06. Psychic Love Damage 07. Dark Bubbles 08. Dreamsicle Bomb 09. Iron Lemonade 10. We Burn [?] 11. Melt Me 12. Sun Lips 13. Like a Sundae
14. The Wettest Day 15. The Healing Power of Nothing 16. Forever Heavy
Personal Bias: Ever since seeing Black Moth Super Rainbow for the first time at the Black Sheep in September 2007, I've been a fan.
Random Detail: There was an unpainted, signed mask of the figure on the cover of Cobra Juicy for sale for $70 at the merch booth before the show. It was gone after.
By the Way: 2012's Cobra Juicy may be BMSR's best album.
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