Black Moth Super Rainbow 5.17.13
Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel
The excitement was palpable as dedicated fans and curious first-timers convened at the Bluebird Theater to see the aptly named Black Moth Super Rainbow. The western Pennsylvania experimental music group has developed a style that seems to show dark energy (black moth) in a dazzlingly colorful (super rainbow) way. They have amassed a cult following, that seemed to be ecstatic for the opportunity to witness the bizarre band live. Preferring near anonymity, BMSR was shrouded in shadows throughout the show. A projector lit up the stage with imagery of nature. Each slide eventually revealed very subtle motion, such as smoke rising from a smoke stack, a person unexpectedly running by the camera, or other random variations. The lights were stagnant, changing infrequently in dull tones. It was a very banal visual production, yet it seemed to accentuate the mysterious, psychedelic oddities that defined the group... a group led by a guy named Tobacco. To add to their mysterious nature, all the members have adopted stage names including female drummer Iffernaut (she played the entire show in a ninja mask), bassist Pony Diver, guitarist Ryan Graveface, and (personal favorite) lady keyboardist, The Seven Fields of Aphelion.
The music was unique. Founded on electronica rhythms, the band injected nuances from several disparate influences. My first thought was of Trent Reznor. There was an industrial, dark, heavy, brooding in the sound, but it wasn't as destructive as Nine Inch Nails. The use of echoes and distortion had a certain 90's air, at times reminding me of Pearl Jam's spacey guitar solos. A friend mentioned shades of the early Flaming Lips (pre-Vaseline) and eventually Tool. Both were also accurate in my assessment. Not to mislead, the band had alternative nuances throughout, but their weren't enough of any of those influences to overcome their electronica foundation, which centered on Iffernaut's dancey rhythms and Tobacco's use of the vocoder. The vocoded lyrics had a Daft Punk element to them, but not nearly as poppy, happy, or clubby. Throughout the show I found myself in a perpetual state of intrigue, overwhelmed by a sound I didn't know how to process. I imagined that a background in BMSR's music would have enhanced the experience for me, but was still impressed by the puzzling spectacle. What they did, they did precisely. It was executed flawlessly, and left the crowd somewhat speechless. Their integration of traditional rock and roll instruments with futuristic instruments such as their vocoder and monosynth exemplified the potential for a band to nod to their influences while blazing new trails. It was adventurous music that would likely only appeal to adventurous ears, but I was satisfied with my decision to step outside my comfort zone.
Post show, most talk was about the unusual sounds and creepy energy. I heard no complaints over the buzz of the Bluebird's marquee, nor did I have any to voice. Some conversations touched on the show being short, yet everyone seemed pretty much satisfied. Even after a few days to digest the show, I was still contemplating all the unusual aspects of their music. I remained intrigued. The mystery, the shadow, the underground... expressed in aural subterranean grey with LED peripherals.