Using indie rock as their main platform, Menace Beach has been exploring the trajectories of the genre with adjacent sounds in noise rock and post-punk, while also approaching songwriting with the lighter touch of pop music. Their debut record Ratworld saw them introduce their alternative sound coupled with a power pop aspect, but it was Lemon Memory that revealed the more complex form of the band. Harnessing the alternative perspective of indie rock and also injecting noise elements within its structures, the record explored the band’s vision on a deeper level.
The return now with Black Rainbow Sound further explores the territory Lemon Memory first introduced. For this record band members, Liza Violet and Ryan Needham started working on their ideas through drum machine progressions, extravagant synths, guitar feedbacks, and looped samples to form their new record. Through this process Black Rainbow Sound appears to take on a more laid-back tone, as this wishful sense of sonic exploration leads to a record that arrives with a warmer and more soothing characteristic that works on top of the spiky and electrifying sound of Lemon Memory.
In that respect Black Rainbow Sound offers a retro take on the sound of Menace Beach. While their attitude points to the indie rock scene of the ’90s, there is also an element that travels further back in time provides a slight ’60s psychedelic touch. The title track opens the record in that fashion, as the riffs point towards that era while the vocal delivery takes an ethereal form that suits the progression. It is also a style that the band further explores in the more toned-down moments of Black Rainbow Sound, for example, the emotive and majestic “8000 Molecules”, which diverges further into shoegaze territory. But, what goes hand in hand with this more pronounced psychedelia is the implementation of synths to paint the background in strange colors.
Again, Menace Beach travel back in time with their use of synthesizers and explore some very interesting sonic artifacts. “Satellite” is the first moment when that application comes to full fruition, making the track appear as if it has been taken out of the soundtrack from some bizarre alien b-movie from the ’60s. Despite a slight dose of cheesiness, it’s an element that makes the record appear more endearing, especially when it goes alongside some of the drum machine progressions. A similar effect is reached when the band uses some simplistic ideas regarding progression and melodies, as is the case with the start of “Tongue”. All these intricacies add to give the record a sense of strange nostalgia.
While the band’s experimental tendencies do not go full blown, they still feature an adventurous perspective on their use of noise. This aspect is mainly used to add to the background of their music, creating a rich tapestry of sound that accommodates the indie rock renditions. The impressive guitar tempering in “Mutator” is such an instance, while the combination of guitar experimentation with the spooky synths in “Hypnotiser Keeps the Ball Rolling” fascinatingly mold the scenery. The latter track also sees the band dive deeper into their post-punk side, without allowing the hazy quality of the background cost them any weight and energy. That is also the fine balance that Menace Beach strike between their psychedelic sound and their direct indie rock form.
While there is this investigatory element about Menace Beach, the band appears to have a clear focus on their end goal, and they do not deviate from it. The hazy, psychedelic touches do not cost them any energy, while the noise injections do not overwhelm the track and see them losing themselves in strange improvisations. Even when the heavier moments of the record arrive, as is the case with “Crawl in Love”, the band never lose sight of their pop sensibilities. While it would be interesting to see them lose control at some point and take things on a different gear, the band encapsulates very nicely their core concepts in Black Rainbow Sound, making it their strongest record so far.