TOBACCO can’t have nice things.
On his third album, the Pennsylvania snake-synth-charmer deepens his approach
to aural depravity. Ultima II Massage widens a jagged swath through the dude’s
own weird catalog, each disparate track damaged to the point of contributing to
some sort of greater, lurching Frankenstein-like state. “I spent a lot of time
breaking it in all the right places,” says TOBACCO. “It ends up making the whole
thing breathe — sometimes gasp for air. It feels more alive.” Immediately after
?nishing 2010’s Maniac Meat, he went to work on the beat-addled series begun
with Fucked Up Friends in 2008. There were notable breaks en route to now — a
surprising commission to remix White Zombie’s “Thunder Kiss ‘65,” a new BMSR
record (Cobra Juicy), and producing Demon Queen’s Exorcise Tape with vocalist
Zackey Force Funk — but he saved the worst for last, amassing the most
misanthropic material for Ultima. To wit, SPIN dubbed early share “Lipstick
Destroyer” a “junkyard takedown of Daft Punk’s beloved, pristine electro.”
TOBACCO explains his modi?ed approach: ”I wanted to push each song just
enough, so that even when the album’s at its wildest, it’s something you can zone
out to. It feels like a de?nitive end to a concept I’ve been trying to perfect forever.
Maniac Meat was linear. This time I wanted to do a lot of different things and have
them come together as one meditative piece. At least for myself.”
Which, oddly enough, makes sense. This is easily TOBACCO’s most diverse set to
date — his own Stereopathetic Soulmanure, but about that 1-900 hotline life:
massage parlors, plasticized sleaze, fake tans, old dial-ups to the fan clubs of
dead B-actors. Fittingly, the album’s only contributor is Beck music director Brian
LeBarton who shrieks as Notrabel on the grimy freak-out “Streaker.” At 17 tracks,
Ultima is stacked with beautifully perverse hits — from the sickly sticky “Eruption,”
to the wobbly demon swaggerer “Face Breakout,” to the distorted punk spazz of
“Dipsmack,” to the apocalyptic sepia ambience of “Spitlord.” You may hear
disembodied bits of Boards of Canada, early Def Jam records, and Gary Numan,
or maybe just public-access TV and bad VHS dubs of ‘80s horror ?icks. Or the sun
exploding and everything you’ve ever loved melting. Again, TOBACCO was just
trying to make meditation music.
But to ?nd that rotted sweet spot, as always, he had to subvert his pop urges.
TOBACCO went back to the cassette decks he started off with — analog weapons
of distortion to compliment his hissing vocoder and blown rhythms. Any moment
that felt “just right” was brutally assaulted until ugly again. All to accomplish one
end: “This might be my most purposely dif?cult album yet, but I promise if you let
it in, it can fuck you up.”
Ultima II Massage.
No happy ending.