Review Summary: The most fluid Tobacco yet, albeit less dynamic and trending towards sell out.
Thomas Fec does whatever he wants.
Despite the relationships between his two projects, Black Moth Super Rainbow and Tobacco, one can always feel a distinct difference between the two. Where BMSR tends to be on the lighter, fluffy side of an aural acid trip, Tobacco uses grinding, gritty beats to create uncomfortable yet infectiously danceable tracks heavily laden in barely audible vocoder. Tobacco's earlier releases, Maniac Meat and ***ed up Friends, sound like repositories for tracks too dark or disjointed to be labeled BMSR. What these albums lack in cohesiveness they make up for in unique, hard-hitting beats that depart from many of Fec's electronic contemporaries. The albums are great collections of songs, and have some high-profile appearances from Beck and Aesop Rock, but never seem to create any continuity--perhaps for Fec, this is exactly the point.
Ultima II Massage drifts slowly towards cohesion. The album seems to flow together more as one continuous piece of (Tobacco-style) music. In doing this, though, Tobacco seems to sacrifice some of the extreme spontaneity and ingenuity that made earlier releases so powerful. The album relies much more on Fec's vocoder usage, and the general inaudibility and cheap quality of the lyrics makes an album feel childish that otherwise would not. Sex can definitely sell electronic music, and an artist who has done a great job of forging his own path in the electronic scene seems to be playing up to his audience's more prurient interests. Despite the beats being as unique as always, one can't help but wonder if Tobacco is trying forge a niche for himself in the mainstream through lyrical content.
The beats are a toned-down version of what one would expect from a Tobacco album. "Self Tanner" and other largely vocal-free tracks like the final two, "Spitlord" and "The Touch From Within," show a maturation in Fec's production as Tobacco. There are plenty of grooves throughout the album, but I was left wondering if this was the beginning of the end of for a bastion of one of the best contradictions in electronic music. For me, Tobacco has been smart, gritty, trip-hop filtered lightly through a vocoder. The vocoder reigns supreme in Ultima II, and I don't know if that is a good thing.