As another Wednesday night rolls round, a chunk of the British nation will once more gather to scratch its collective head at goings-on in The Apprentice, where inevitably the nominal business leaders of tomorrow will again prove shockingly inept flogging tat to chavs. But to give them the benefit of the doubt, the show seems to assume that a bunch of talented middle managers will automatically make great bakers, something that basically makes no sense whatsoever. Now, that is a laboured analogy, but it’s kind of been helpful to me in imagining how on earth it is that Black Moth Super Rainbow – a band that counts both Tobacco and Ryan Graveface (aka Dreamend) amongst its number – can be so underwhelming compared to its constituent artists. The answer, I assume, is that where Tobacco is superb at creating instrumental scuzz-hop and Graveface is a whizz with the widescreen dreampop, then it doesn't in any way logically follow that they'll make the world's finest psyche rock if shoved in a band with a lady who calls herself The Seven Fields of Aphelion.
This is somewhat by the by at the moment, as BMSR are apparently on hiatus for the foreseeable future. One suspects that the success of Tobacco’s last two records may have had something to do with this; hopefully Dreamend’s So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite will give them another reason to remain just good friends.
SIAMBBB is marked by heavy use of banjo, an instrument possessed of both simple folky sweetness, and menacing Deliverance-style undertones. Graveface knows how to evoke both moods, and while for the most part the wholesome wins out over the sinister, there’s an ever present threat of darkness that keeps the twee at bay.
In the main, though, this really is a lovely record. Six and a half minute opener ‘Pink Cloud In The Woods’ is roughly as elfin and cuddlesome as the title suggests, a winsome cascade of joyous glock, tinkling over a field recording of what would appear to be an actual woodland stream, until a couple of minutes in a drowsy veil of half heard murmurs and tick tock-ing percussion descends, adding an otherworldly frisson that nicely complicates the pastoral reverie. ‘Where Do You Belong’, by contrast, has little in the way of enigma, being an unabashedly chirrupy strum - complete with whistling solo! – that demonstrates two important things about Graveface. The first is that fans of Sung Tongs/Feels-era Animal Collective are liable to quite like his music. The second is that even at his most ebullient, he still knows to throw a bit of a spanner in the works, with the good vibes judiciously undercut by a crushing drumline that mercilessly flattens the song’s middle.
If passages of SIAMBBB suffer ever so slightly in comparison to those mid-period Animal Collective records, then what boots it into something close to greatness is closing track ‘An Admission’. It’s ten minutes long, and does pretty everything you want a ten minute long track by a guy with a banjo and an FX pedal to do. Deceptively quiescent plucking and an eerie lyric ( “I see her face without those eyes, dead black eyes; to see the darkness instead of light it takes a man, a real man”) becomes quickened via kinetic, jazzy drumming and roars of feedback that bend and melt the song’s gentle structure before simply ripping it to shreds around the three minute mark, Graveface breaking into a hymnal yowl over ripples of percussion and distortion, before the whole thing detonates into one furiously overdriven blast of light and sound. Finally it does ground itself, careening to a clattering demise, screeching like some runaway engine in Old South. It’s pretty cool.
It’s a tour de force finale that shores up a record that Dreamend will likely improve upon, pound for pound, though topping ‘An Admission’ itself may prove tricky. In any case a follow up - apparently called So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite part 2 - is due soon, before anymore BMSR tomfoolery. If Graveface isn’t quite the master, he’s way beyond being an apprentice.
8Andrzej Lukowski's Score