It's been almost two decades since baby Tobacco first plugged in a tape deck, popped the top, and found the dark magic that's fueled so many sonic forays into his genre less bog of beat-blasted hypnagogia and otherworldly-yet-earthen pop. The Pennsylvanian experimentalist has since helmed countless Black Moth Super Rainbow releases, remixed outsiders as offbeat as Health and unexpected as White Zombie, and produced MCs ranging from Aesop Rock to Beck. But it's on his fourth solo album that Tobacco winds up coining an apt name for his vast empire of moldering electrofied dirt: Sweatbox Dynasty. The new LP - his second for Ghostly International - finds the rural recluse resurrecting an old approach to hack a new path through the muck. This may be his most unintentionally psychedelic and left-field creation yet, full of rhythms that start and stop like a tractor on its last piston, resonating melodies made to fuel transcendental meltdowns, and vocals that hiss, gurgle, and growl.
"It's my baby," says Tobacco – a disturbing mental image if you overlook the beauty in his decrepit works. A song like "Human Om," for example, swirls revving analog synths, drum machine clatter, blown-out gong hits, sitar hum, and all manner of unidentifiable noise to create an unexpected sense of calm. It's an almost trance-inducing space where our host gets touchy-feely in his own way, voice seething, "You can be my light come up in the morning/And I can be your spiral spinnin' down." The cheery na-na-na's and punchy rhythms of "Gods in Heat" similarly contrast against dirging chords and heavy distortion, while "Warlock Mary" swaths a springy funk riff in thick layers of warped tones. Interstitial pieces like "Wipeth Out" or "The Madonna" are exactly that – strange, minimal fuzz bombs that jerk and groove to alien cadences.
On an album with no guests, the tape deck is Tobacco's one true collaborator – the Second Zombie Beatle there to eff up all his prettier inclinations. Like how the sticky coast and thump of "Dimensional Hum" keeps getting derailed by what sounds like a fritzy radio dial, and the stonery dub of "Fantasy Trash Wave" bends and snaps over its slippery breakbeats. "An album of linear songs is just boring at this point," says Tobacco, and he makes extra good on his promise to innovate ever more crudely with Sweatbox Dynasty's closer. At over six minutes, "Let's Get Worn Away" first plays like eleven more songs spliced together at unpredictable intervals – jock jams collide against rap bumps, synthesizer ether, and shadowy electro-pop.
But on repeated listens, madness clearly becomes method, as our anti-hero lulls us into a state of intense, earned peace. This time when he stops, he's got closure, and we're the ones left with an undeniable urge to dig our hands back into that aural gunk once again.