Brooklyn outfit Small Black’s recently released mixtape, Moon Killer, introduces the band’s established listeners to a new-ish sound while satiating them during the interminable wait between albums. Like fellow chillwave practitioners Elite Gymnastics’ K-pop mixtape released earlier this year, Moon Killer highlights Small Black’s range of influences and skill at incorporating them into their often pigeonholed sound. In an interview with Spinner, Small Black said the new album is “faster, tighter, more minimal, more pop,” and you can hear those subtle differences on Moon Killer. The mixtape combines New Chain’s weighty synths with saccharine samples and guest verses from Das Racist’s Heems for a collection of gauzy, tongue-in-cheek pop songs that makes it, if anything, harder to wait for what Small Black will come up with next.
On “Love’s Not Enough”, vocalist Josh Kolenick finishes Nicki Minaj’s sampled “Your love…” with the breathy, superimposed challenge, “…is not enough” over a dirty ‘Nawlins drumroll a la Juvenile, exemplifying Moon Killer’s consistent juxtaposition of hip-hop, pop, and Small Black’s signature synth manipulation. “Two Rivers” similarly integrates Heems’ languid rapping about “mean muggin’ ‘cause Indian kids be thuggin’” and Kolenick’s romantic murmuring about standing on the West Side looking in the opposite direction. The dreamy chorus percolates between Heems’ humorous verses, structuring the album’s first single like a hip-hop track. Close second “Sunday Son” minimizes Heems’ contribution: The rapper doesn’t appear until two-thirds of the way through the song, and when he does, Small Black’s chiming synths and lounge beat strictly regulate his delivery.
Unlike New Chain, parts of Moon Killer lighten Small Black’s usually dense synthesizer layers with focal points. “Late Night G” distinctly slows The Carpenters’ originally pleading vocals and piano chords on “I Won’t Last a Day Without You”, distorting it like a “good witch” house song. The album’s other sample-based nugget, “All the Rainbows”, somehow bumps a reggae version of the Andalusian guitars from “Windmills of Your Mind”. Like the track’s deliciously velvet Dusty Springfield vocals, dusted off for a new audience, Moon Killer’s breadth is an essential treat for both old and new fans of Small Black.
Essential Tracks: “Two Rivers”, “All the Rainbows”, and “Sunday Son”