I spent a lot of time this summer listening to Start A People. It’s a summery album, but it’s a sort of summer that’s always reminding you that winter is on the horizon. The sound that Black Moth Super Rainbow has created is certainly unique: a drum machine that sounds like it’s just short of falling apart provides the backbone for most of the tracks while vintage analog synthesizers play, and the vocals are fed through what must be one of the cheapest vocoders ever produced. Somehow it all works, but the uniqueness of the sound has a tendency to obscure how well the songs are written. It’s not really the use of vintage equipment that makes this album so good; it’s the fact that the sounds are chosen and layered ingeniously, such that every song has an undeniable sense of atmosphere.
There is a sense of fairy-tale childishness that pervades this album. Yes, on the surface the music is saccharine-sweet and innocent, but much like those stories you were told as a child the lyrics hint at a sense of darkness that becomes more apparent the more you listen. The vocoder-filtered vocals might allow you to ignore what the vocalist is saying the first few times you listen (I certainly did), but there’s some beautifully minimalistic poetry in these songs. On tracks like “1 2 3 Of Me” you can practically feel the nostalgia pouring through the speakers as you hear “If you’ll just come with me/a sunflower is what I’ll be.” And you might never notice that over the wonderfully gentle guitar track of “Hazy Field People” the only lyric the vocalist is using is “The sun came up late/tomorrow never came.”
Start A People is certainly less accessible at times than BMSR’s following album, Dandelion Gum, but I would argue that the sense of atmosphere it creates makes it just as worth listening to. Check it out.