The name may evoke ridiculously dubbed B-grade Anime, but don’t let whatever preconceptions you may have bar you from experiencing the awesomeness that is this band. In the backwoods of rural, Western Pennsylvania Tobacco Power Pil Fist Father Humming Bird, Iffernaut and The Seven Fields of Aphelion, concoct a uniquely potent blend of disorienting, lo-fi psychedelic. The sound like cotton candy– seemingly substantial upon first sampling but ultimately dissolving into a sticky, wispy malaise of sweetly addictive goo that gets stuck all in your head.
The warped and grainy weirdness of their music is in the same vain of pre-Music has the Right to Children Boards of Canada. Like early BOC it's chock full o' 70’s public broadcasting sounds and it’s got this distinctly de-ja-vu quality- at once dream like in its striking familiarity yet utterly fresh, alien even. It’s timeless in that it sounds at once archaic and post-modern. In fact, BMSR is not unlike what Boards of Canada may have become in some alternate universe had the brothers Sandison not found their calling in elegant, austere minimalism.
To experience BSMR is to be treated to an exorbitance of tone and aural texture Most of the instrument parts are recorded to tape (presumably an old 4 track by the sound of things) taking full advantage of the analog realm for the sweet sound of maximum saturation. The drums are often tracked live then resampled, edited and looped into shuffling rhythms. Obvious gear fetishists, they rely heavily on vintage synthesizers- and what an astonishingly bad-ass assortment of them the guys have collected: Rhodes, Moogs, Mellotrons and others yet unrecognizable to this reviewer lend this music its unmistakability. It’s the synth leads, along with the heavily vocoded vocals- warped beyond intelligibility and employed much more like an instrument than a traditional front man- that make for such a surprisingly unique brand of hallucinatory mutant pop; a veritable playground of sugary day-glow psychedelia.
Their sound has evolved over the years beginning with where Tobacco’s former project, Satanstompingcatipillars, left off and finally crystallizing with the smoothed out almost Air-style pop of their latest record Eating Us.
Falling through a Field, originally released in 03 (reissued in 2007), is the first full length under the BSMR name. A compilation of early material, demos, orphaned pieces from Satanstompingcatipillar recordings - it touches everything from dreamy shoegaze to bleepy, Atari-esque minimalism. Though somewhat rough it’s easily recognizable as the blueprint for what was to come. Balmy, acoustic guitars; and soft breathy vocals mingle with synthesized bells, warbled Casio pads, fuzzy distortion and dusty drums fomenting into an intoxicating brew baked to perfection in the waning light of the late afternoon sun.
Subsequent releases expound on this basic equation, adding depth with more complex instrumentation and lots more vocoding.
Start a People This album bridges the earlier demo stuff with the more polished contemporary sound. A nice illustration being the remix of I Think it’s Beautiful That You Are 256 colors Too. This newer version adds a slick funky bass line and twinkling synths as well as heavily processing the original vocals in the now accustomed BMSR style. Other faves include the hallucinatory Raspberry Dawn and the soothing lullaby-like 1, 2, 3 of Me.
Lost Picking Flowers in the Woods The title track of this ’06 record with its brittle tinny drums is an up-tempo trip into polychromatic daydream land; equal parts EDM and prog-rock. Another stand out, Drippy Eye grooves woozily with fluttering wood winds and synthetic ragged midrange. The long, winding, superb bass line intro anchors Flowers Grow Here, one of their strongest tunes to date! And Side 8 gets down hip hop style with a breakneck beat led by a dirty trash can snare.
Dandelion Gum. This was my introduction to BMSR and in my opinion, undoubtedly one of the finest records released in ’07. From beginning to end, it's the most consistently brilliant of all their albums ...or maybe I’m just biased. Nah. Lolipopsichord, Jump into My Mouth and Breath the Stardust, Sun Lips, Spinning Cotton Candy in a Shack Made of Shingles, and Untitled Roadside are all among their best tunes.
Fucked Up Friends This solo project from ring leader Tobacco was released on Anticon is possibly, my favorite album of the lot. Takes everything wonderful about the BSMR sound- the tripped out flutes, the gongs and church organs the vintage electronics faded with age -and hip-hop-itises it, adding catchier hooks and crunchier drums. Aesop Rock even shows up on Dirt mumbling something about Honey Bunches of Oats being the best cereal known to man.
Eating Us This record, which dropped about a month ago, is pure summer time vibes. By far the most polished offering yet, I dunno if you could even call it lo-fi any more. It’s probably their most realized album, though not necessarily the best overall. For this project, the guys saw fit to bring in a heavy weight producer to work some of that big-league sonic magic. Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips), to his credit, did an excellent job in augmenting the the BMSR sound. Twin of Myself and Smile the Day After Today; both choice slabs of electrified atmospheric pop that are as good as anything the guys have ever done.