Arts & Culture

Twisting Melodies Beyond the Laws of Physics

By Anand Balasubrahmanyan March 30, 2010

A member of Pittsburgh's eccentric pop collective, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tobacco knows his way around a psychedelic vocoder hook. But on his own, his productions take on sleazy glamor, inspired less by indie rock than hipster rap. That's an awesome thing, as Tobacco's party-starting synth squeals prove the genre can make more than just the corners of ironic mustaches twitch.

While Tobacco's synths might be set to 'drugs', his songs are guided by the propulsive shuffle of hip-hop. “Dirt”—his collaboration with Aesop Rock and his truest crossover moment—is a great entry point. Aesop, as always, flows about something that probably makes sense in his syllabically dense, high octane baritone. His references to Wile E. Coyote fit in perfectly with Tobacco's Chuck Jones beat, an ACME brand electro banger born of a bizarre imagination.

“Hair Candy” is like the hip-hop theme song for Look Around You. Burbling synths slide cooly as pan flutes and glacial sound washes chill things out. “Gross Magic” falls in the same wheelhouse, with Tobacco's chord progressions propelling a mostly instrumental track to the place in your head where songs get stuck.

Of course, Tobacco's cuts with rappers are generally so dope you wish there was rapping all the time (and given that he shares a label with left field rhymers WHY? and Dose One, it's easy to play the what-if game.) I love his re-mix of Anti-Pop Consortium's “Get Lite,” where that group's jackhammer flows are matched with Tobacco's snare drum snaps. Lyrics give Tobacco's grimy synths a tense direction that some of his pure instrumentals get lost without.

But I imagine all of that goes out the window in these song's ideal context. Tobacco beats are meant for in-the-club immersion, those moments when you are dancing and the song is so overpowering you lose track of time and space.  Tobacco has said he composes his songs deep in the Pennsylvania wilderness but at his best it's like he's composing outside reality, twisting melodies beyond the laws of physics.

Tobacco plays Chop Suey this Tuesday, March 30th
Filed under
Show Comments