Black Rainbow Sound straddles the intersect between shimmering 80s synth pop and 90s alt-rock.
We’re seeing a bit of a renaissance going on in Leeds at the moment. Pushing aside your a-typical indie rock band, the electronic maestros and synth masters are muscling their way to the front. The latest addition: Menace Beach’s third studio record Black Rainbow Sound
Don’t be deceived by album opener ‘Black Rainbow Sound’ - while it may sound very much in the same ilk as 2017 album Lemon Memory
with its dingy, punk-laden guitar work, this album is a smorgasbord of fuzzy synths and psychedelia. None more embodying of Liza and Ryan’s dystopian vision is ‘Satellite’. Released last week as a standalone single, it sits comfortably in the realm of the weird and wonky; scuzzy guitars, a marching drum machine beat and chanting vocals (“He watches from a satellite / He watches from a satellite”). It’s sort of what I imagine Elon Musk and Grimes combined headspace sounds like - a ringing siren call to the curiously crazy intellects.
You certainly need to be in the right frame of mind to listen to Black Rainbow Sounds
, with Liza and Ryan’s daringly experimental sounds warping the boundaries of indie and electronica beyond recognition. ‘Crawl In Love’ has a peculiar college rock feel to it - its messy, reverbing bassline provides a platform for Ryan’s boy-band-with-an-edge vocals while whining synths fling you into the backseat of a ghost train ride. Straddling the intersect between Lemon Memory
and Black Rainbow Sound
is ‘Mutator’, with its 90s alt-rock bassline and sweet 80s synth-pop sweeping you up into the duo’s wonky dreamland of pop-rock.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is ‘8000 Molecules’ - an acid trip through the shimmering stars of deep, labyrinthine space. Liza’s heavily distorted vocals are indicative of the song’s theme of anti-love (“I’m not / I’m not in love”) and contrast with warm, bubbly neon-grey synth sounds. It’s bizarre in its production, but a hell of a lot of fun on a decent set of headphones. We move forward, to shoot straight backwards again. Ryan’s throaty vocals complement the wailing, ghost-town synthesisers and swarming guitars in ‘Hypnotiser Keeps The Ball Rolling’. While certainly a highlight from the new album, it succeeds in making you feel uncomfortable and maybe even a bit nauseous - it’s like being trapped in the Mystery Machine after a joint with a bunch of bad guys in face masks.
Menace Beach’s vision comes to fruition in ‘Watermelon’ which boasts the biggest, bolshiest chorus of the album with its analogue synth fizzle and warble, spilling into all the cracks in the song. Like the entirety of Black Rainbow Sound
, from start to finish it is all-encompassing, raucously messy fun. Despite the subtle struggle between their more recognisable 90s college rock aesthetic and experimenting with a psych-led sound, the album uncovers a new layer of depth from the Leeds-based pair. We have absolutely no idea in what direction we’ll be taken, but we certainly are enjoying the ride.