A Journal Of The Dark Arts
In a world that is increasingly safe & sterile – where everything is codified, typified, labelled, tagged, hashtagged and rendered entirely acceptable within nanoseconds of it’s inception, it is refreshing to find something dirty & deranged, possibly dangerous. So, with the simple refrain “Ride/Motherfucker/Ride”, Tobacco throws down the gauntlet, calling us all into battle, and providing the soundtrack to our mutant summer, with Ultima II Massage.
On UIIM, which i’m tempted to call Tobacco’s greatest work to date, if not for the fact that each work seems part of a greater trajectory, Tom Fec has refined his pallet of grainy synths, stomping beats and warbling vocoders to produce an immersive, blurred-around-the-edges VHS holodeck experience, that’ll make yr world squirm and wriggle and squish.
The press release puts it like this:
This is easily TOBACCO’s most diverse set to date — his own Stereopathetic Soulmanure, but about that 1-900 hotline life: massage parlors, plasticized sleaze, fake tans, old dial-ups to the fan clubs of dead B-actors. Fittingly, the album’s only contributor is music director Brian LeBarton who shrieks as Notrabel on the grimy freak-out “Streaker.” At 17 tracks, Ultima is stacked with beautifully perverse hits — from the sickly sticky “Eruption,” to the wobbly demon swaggerer “Face Breakout,” to the distorted punk spazz of “Dipsmack,” to the apocalyptic sepia ambience of “Spitlord.” You may hear disembodied bits of Boards of Canada, early Def Jam records, and Gary Numan, or maybe just public-access TV and bad VHS dubs of ‘80s horror flicks. Or the sun exploding and everything you’ve ever loved melting. Again, TOBACCO was just trying to make meditation music.
Parts of the press release make it sound like this is some sort of difficult listening, like some bad bummer trip. The man himself put it like this: “This might be my most purposely difficult album yet, but I promise if you let it in, it can fuck you up.” Well, it must be too late for me, and i must be hopelessly infected, because this sounds like an album of straight-up infectious bangers, to me. And maybe this is the glory of Tobacco’s music? You have to let it in, meet it on it’s own terms. He’s not giving you a bunch of cozy genre codifiers to hang yr skullcap on, it exists in it’s own Kodachrome universe, which has a lot to do with a lot of other genres, but isn’t owned by any of them. Because of this, Tobacco may be the only person alive who can make a LFO wobble sound exciting, in 2014, like on “Face Breakout”, if only because it sounds like an ATARI 2600 stuttering and choking on it’s own white noise vomit. Even though it may not belong to any established genre (Tobacco/BMSR are very much a genre of their own), it has elements of a number of styles that are ‘in’ right now; a heavy reliance on analog gear and hardware manipulation, and a blurry, cross-eyed worldview, like watching late night cable, high on Fruit Punch and Dexedrine. While Vaporwave may seek to assimilate or gaze at the detritus of mainstream culture, from corporate training videos to disposable pop, it always does so at a distance. It is appreciating, or appropriating, but it is never IN IT.
Tobacco’s music, on the other hand, is the ultimate late-night monster movie cable flipping mixtape, by the king of trash and sleaze. This man LIVES THIS; long before it was cool or hip or with it to trade obscure VHS tapes and melty cassettes. He is the real deal, you can tell, no mere bandwagon hopper. And because of it, we get to revel in his lifelong aesthetic. Vangelis minimoog brass hovercars smash through glass ceilings; invade yr home, yr eyes, yr mind. Finally, there is adventure. Finally, something exciting! Finally, the future!
Of course, the best taste in the world means nothing, if the tunes themselves are no good. But Tobacco’s overblown beats stomp and swing, while his battery of synthesizers, everything from queasy detuned chiptune (“Streaker”), to trancey, hypnotic arpeggiators (“Good Complexion”), to Miami Vice cast-offs (“Creaming For Beginners”) are insanely catchy and hummable, all of which are served in good stead by Tobacco’s use of hissy tape formats, which give weight and warmth to every element.
Tobacco’s been a busy mutant, lately, with a new album from Black Mother Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy, as well as producing the Demon Queen mixtape with Zackey Force Funk, but he claims to have amassed the most misanthropic material for Ultima II Massage. I think it’s all a smoke screen to keep the posers and faint of heart at bay, ‘cuz this sounds like straight party jamz to me, even if it is a party at the end of the universe in a nuclear tar pit, surrounded by reanimated wooly mammoths and skater skeletons.
Every time Tobacco releases something, i proclaim that it will be the summer jam of the year. Let’s make it happen, this year! Every track on Ultima II Massage is under 4:30, which means they should slot nicely onto yr next mixtape, with the epic ‘Eruption’, one of the earliest singles, being a particularly strong candidate for hedonism.
Cuz it’s a nice fucking day, and i’m feeling just fine. What more is there to say?