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Tobacco – Ultima II Massage

on May 19, 2014, 12:01am
C+
Release Date
May 13, 2014
Label
Ghostly
Formats
digital, vinyl, cd

Though his music has frequently been gloppy, weirdo, disco-inflected fun, Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman Thomas Fec knew there was something darker going on when he chose the stage name Tobacco. In an interview with Skyscraper Magazine, Fec explained that his name came from a character from B-movie Redneck Zombies, The Tobacco Man, a creep with a distorted monster voice and a burlap bag over his head. In that context, the twisted psychedelia, masked aliases, and buzz-saw synths suddenly take on a far darker mien. The latest solo album from Tobacco, Ultima II Massage takes a more direct route to that menace, still filling the dance floor, but it’s shrouded some by a noxious, woozy layer of smoke.

“Streaker” opens the album on heavy percussive strikes and a mechanical, drop-toned Tobacco spitting a repetition of “Ride, ride, ride motherfucker, ride.” He’s not taking any prisoners, but in this bombed-out wasteland, there likely aren’t any prisoners to take anyway. “Good Complexion” slows the intensity just a bit, a shuffling groove left abandoned next to the open highway. The grinding “Father Sister Berzerker” spills icicle tones across the dark ground.

That said, some of the harshness seems a little forced. The hard-riding, hip-hop adjacent “Eruption” sounds like a parody more than it does an original composition, Fec’s vocoded iterations of “motherfucker” educing more of a smirk than a grimace. “Blow Your Heart” could be grown-up Gene Belcher toying around with a keyboard and his robot voice megaphone. “Omen Classic” starts on a promising mixture of shuddering squelch and a boom bap beat but lolls its way into nothingness.

Then, as if to enforce the conception that the darkness best suits the Tobacco world as a lingering undercurrent rather than a dominant force, an unexpected pop rather than a constant dread, the album closes on “The Touch from Within”. The twitchy slow-clapper sinks in like a sharp knife, something haunting about it rather than downright terrifying, the latter of which just can’t stay together for an entire album.

Essential Tracks: “Streaker”, “The Touch from Within”

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