Before the modern era of albums generated as much by algorithm as by people, electronic music as a genre was a far more “lo-fi” affair. Through the 1960s and 1970s, pioneering electronic musicians like Wendy Carlos, Herbie Hancock, and Karlheinz Stockhausen produced songs that were defined by the warm, fuzzy sounds of their temperamental analog equipment. Harking back to that era of analog richness is the psychedelic masterpiece Cobra Juicy, one of the latest from Pittsburgh natives Black Moth Super Rainbow.
While Cobra Juicy uses many of those same sonic textures and equipment of old, its approach in manipulating them is entirely different. Through heavy use of distortion, vocoders, trapdoor percussion, and growling guitar, this is an album that might best be described as sinister. However, while there’s an element of energy and aggression, this is not an angry work. Punctuating the distortion-fueled crunch are soft 1970s synth melodies and dreamy vocals with lyrics that are equal parts cool and bizarre. Opening track “Windshield Smasher” exemplifies this balance with groaning vocals and staccato percussion. Later on, tracks like “Psychic Love Damage” offer a bit of soothing reprieve, but the lyrics remain just as shadowy.
If I were pressed to come up with a short description of Cobra Juicy, I would label it as evil, dreamy psychadelia. Is this type of album for you? Well, if you can get past the occasional smattering of graphic language, and have ever enjoyed genres like psychedelic rock or electronic, I’d say give it a go. It’s certainly not for everyone, but those susceptible to its particular sort of wicked charm will love this entry endlessly.