Published May 02, 2018The opening warbles of Panic Blooms tease out Black Moth Super Rainbow's now-customary contradictions: acceptance and unease, disintegrating textures and clear melody and vocoder lyrics both precise and cryptic. But where earlier BMSR recordings let those opposites pull together into warped, messy spirals of sound, Panic Blooms seems set in the aftermath of pulling too far and feeling something rip. Six years after the Pittsburgh weirdo collective's last full-length, they dare you to drift along a 16-track trip of desolation, unease, and strange beauty.
In other words, they read the room: Panic Blooms' mix of bummer oddities and damaged sounds feels right in the here and now, using wounded psych-synth blasts to tap the uncertainty in the air. "Bad Fuckin Times" finds lines like "feels even better than depression" worthy of repeating-chorus status, complete with backing ah-ah-ahs. "Bottomless Face" processes some deep ennui through cathartic washes of sound, while "We Might Come Back" sets a dance beat under ghostly flights of synth and lets them soar where they want.
It all lands in the service of scratching at untethered emotional depths, and often manages to do so: unexpected moments of clarity and potency emerge across Panic Blooms, like when "Permanent Hole" lets digital blips act as a soothing balm over a bleak soundscape, or "Mr. No One"'s album-closing, pep-talk refrain of "should get a little more sunshine / should get a little less haze around me."
Still, if 2012's Cobra Juicy was the most accessible the band's ever been — clear(er) riffs, big emotive sweeps, dayglo vibes — Panic Blooms is a shadowy, leaking sibling, licking its wounds and pulling back from the sunlight. There seem to be fewer entry points here than with other BSMR albums, but there's also a comfort in its unabashed adherence to exploring bad feelings: hearing weirdos call it like they see it, even when the going's gotten rough, offers some strange sense of reprieve. (Rad Cult)