Dusted Reviews

Dean Roberts and the Black Moths - Play the Grand Cinema

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Dean Roberts and the Black Moths

Album: Play the Grand Cinema

Label: Staubgold

Review date: Nov. 2, 2004

New Zealand’s musical omnivore Dean Roberts is a man of shifting identities. Over the last decade or so, he has led compelling projects under his own name and with the groups Thela and White Winged Moth. Here he unites his shimmering guitar atmospherics with the electroacoustic improv sensibilities he has been exploring of late (notably in last year’s excellent Building Excess on Grob). This 2000 recording, then – initially released by Ritornell and Mille Plateaux – can be seen as something of a transition (or a watershed, depending on your perspective). The Black Moths include not only Roberts himself (who here supplements his guitar with keyboards, percussion, a couple horns and his interestingly reserved lyrics) but Charles Curtis on cello, Matt Valentine on bass, and Tim Barnes on percussion. That’s a helluva band.

Many of the pieces – which blend together into one long piece, and which largely feel like improvisations, possibly with some post-production – are built around repeating loops. And it’s these passages (particularly the lush ending of “Sugar Got a Cocaine Heart”) that seem to be the touchstones for Roberts’ recent electroacoustic improvisations. Some of them shimmer with the kind of hallucinatory quality one hears in Gary Lucas’ playing, while others have the sort of dissociative quality that the best of Radian’s and Trapist’s work can generate. On the first track, hushed vocal confessions strain to be heard amid chiming guitar chords, burbling glitches and tones, and a wildly clanging percussive effect. Slowly the piece intensifies, as an almost dub bassline jars things loose until all kinds of sounds begin falling around Roberts, whose increasingly frantic vocals seem to be crying for help amid the clangor. Bells, arco scrapes and mutterings, reverberant drones and feedback are among the effects The Black Moths regular layer within these performances, luxuriating for long periods in the wondrous hum of it all. Part of the fun is guessing who’s responsible for what: is it a prepared instrument, an electronic ghost, or some percussive trick making that whine, that chirrup, that eructation?

Some tracks push outward, concerned with sonic expanse. The group’s cacophonous, almost claustrophobic reading of Brian Eno’s old chestnut “Cindy Tells Me” might be the clearest example of this approach: the multiple dark drones push against the form, as organ, Ebow, and feedback work against Barnes’ insistent clicks and clacks to construct a huge cavern of sound. Others, though, such as “You and the Devil Blues,” can seem nearly intimate by comparison. For 40 minutes, this record invites you into an alien environment, a foreign terrain that’s not so much daunting as it is resolute in its idiosyncrasies. Nothing about this music is demonstrative, concerned with technique, or even about individual voices. Rather, it’s elliptical, suggestive and quietly incandescent.

By Jason Bivins

Read More

View all articles by Jason Bivins

Find out more about Staubgold

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.