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Tobacco – Maniac Meat May 27, 2010

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music.
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Artist: Tobacco

Album: Maniac Meat

Release: Anticon, 2010

Genre: Experimental

RIYD: Black Moth Super Rainbow (though also recommended if you don’t dig them)

I don’t care much for Black Moth Super Rainbow. Their sound is too unnaturally saccharine, like an artificially flavored Hostess snack or Splenda sweetener. It sounds sweet for the sake of sounding sweet without being supported by any real substance. Part of this artificiality stems from the extensive use of vocoder and synthesizer: all of the sounds are clearly manufactured and bear no resemblance to anything organically derived. I know this sugar-coatedness is their trademark sound and many applaud them for sticking to it, but BMSR’s ear candy is sweet enough to make me fear ear cavities and I’m definitely not a huge fan.

So you can imagine my surprise when I checked out Tobacco, the side project of Tom Fec, the brains behind BMSR, and found myself immediately enthralled. All of the elements that I dislike in Fec’s work as BMSR are found all throughout Maniac Meat, but they’re assembled in an entirely different way that sounds intriguing as opposed to annoying. Tobacco and Black Moth are two sides of the same overly polished coin. Both are comprised of artificial electronic effects and filtered vocals, but where BMSR’s music frolics in the world of overwhelmingly pleasant sunshine pop, Tobacco’s Maniac Meat dabbles in the dark caves of grimy, spastic, and overblown hip-hop beats. Both sounds are equally psychedelic in nature, but if BMSR represents the pure pleasure of a good drug experience, Tobacco is the muddled confusion and harsh anxiety of a bad trip (though in the best way possible.) Where BMSR is the good, Tobacco is the evil, and never has evil sounded so good as it does in Maniac Meat.

The album itself is a collection of short songs and sound experiments filtered through an aggressive veil of sludge and engine grease. The off-kilter beats that drive the music contained within are loud, abrasive, and mechanical, resembling a failed attempt at starting a car or using a chainsaw to cut through hard metal. The songs move from dense arrangements of blasted electronics and whirring motors to stuttering, pulsating rhythms of dirt and decay. Fec’s vocoder presence seems much more diabolical against this backdrop, taunting the listener as would a demon at the gates of hell, and even something as pleasant-sounding as guest vocals from Beck only serve to increase the anxiety and dimensia embodied by the sixteen tracks that make up the album. The album and track titles describe the sound even better than I can, with tracks like “Sweatmother”, “Motorlicker”, “Unholy Demon Rhythms”, and “Nuclear Waste Aerobics” sounding almost exactly as you would expect them to. Maniac Meat is a violent, chaotic, and grungy affair; a psychedelic mindfuck that takes no prisoners.

I know none of these harsh descriptions make the music sound all that appealing, but what’s great about them is that they give Tobacco an innovative edge that Black Moth Super Rainbow lacks entirely. If you thought BMSR embodied the experimental psychedelic aesthetic, think again. Tobacco’s edge makes Black Moth sound like radio-friendly pop, and that edge is what makes Maniac Meat a worthwhile listen.

Also, on a somewhat related note and for reasons unbeknownst to me, there are random color-changing cats drinking milk in this unofficial visualization of the Beck-assisted single “Fresh Hex” :

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