This impressive new release by Black Moth Super Rainbow member Ryan Graveface is a concept album inspired by the jottings of a serial killer. It's a disconcertingly pretty experience, full of delicate touches. Murder has rarely sounded so laid-back.
Fans of Black Moth's sometimes sublime psychedelic electronica will find much to please them. So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite retains many of their best qualities whilst jettisoning their beats and replacing them with drifting, folksy songs. It may seem odd to say that, despite being an album of acoustic, folk-inspired music which is only occasionally embellished by electronic touches, So I Ate Myself has an aesthetic very similar to Black Moth's, but this shouldn't come as a surprise. Despite their nominal status as a beats-based band, Black Moth have always been a folk group at heart, playing relaxed, shambling music which is inspired by and evokes the American countryside. Dreamend convey a similar sense of warm, organic dreaminess (presumably their name is not coincidental), and Graveface's interest in nature is once again apparent in the sound of chirping crickets which opens the album and its lyrics about forests and stars.
This aesthetic may not seem obviously suited to tales of murder, and so it proves. At times, the serial killer concept seems a distinctly half-hearted one, and Graveface shows little interest in exploring the idea too much. For every lyric such as 'I clean my hands and wash the blood away' there's a line like 'I looked at the sky today, and I said "I love the sun"'. It would be wrong, however, to call the album a failure on the basis that it does not invoke any sense of underlying menace and darkness. It seems likely that Graveface was striving for something with a little more gravitas, but it's easy to ignore the record's concept altogether and just enjoy the music.
There's much to enjoy. Graveface is a talented songwriter, stitching together intricate musical tapestries using memorable melodies as his needle and thread. His weapons of choice include an acoustic guitar, a banjo, and a xylophone, which may sound like eclecticism for the sake of eclecticism, but things never become incoherent. On the contrary, the album works as an impressively unified whole, a carefully plotted listening experience that begins with the chirping crickets and dabs of xylophone which open 'Pink Cloud In The Woods' and ends as 'An Admission' swells into a storm of drums before collapsing in on itself and lapsing into silence. In between there are a number of inspired moments, and I would be remiss not to mention 'A Thought''s vocal, a single, touchingly fragile line which continues as the music surrounding it descends into chaos. This is an album which is best listened to from start to finish, best experienced as a single entity, an oddly unpopular concept nowadays. Its closest neighbours, aside from Graveface's work with Black Moth, are similarly holistic folk albums such as The Microphones' The Glow, Part Two and Sufjan Steven's Seven Swans. I Ate Myself is not touched by brilliance to the same extent as those records, but is nevertheless a consistently enjoyable album.