Album Review: Tobacco, ‘Sweatbox Dynasty’

Written by Andrew Howie


I was first made aware of the reclusive Tobacco as the mastermind behind the enigmatic Black Moth Super Rainbow (whose members include such clear-cut names as Iffernaut, The Seven Fields of Aphelion, Father Hummingbird, and the aforementioned Tobacco, just so you know what sort of music we’ll be dealing with here). Their drone-infused electronic psychedelic garage sound was enthralling, and I began devouring everything I could from any member of the band (if you haven’t heard the album Periphery by The Seven Fields of Aphelion, you are missing out). I just listened to the newest Tobacco solo release, Sweatbox Dynasty, and it is every bit Tobacco, through and through.

I am generally not too big of a fan of electronic music, but Tobacco is different, and Sweatbox Dynasty kicks right off into familiar territory, the omnipresent hum giving the whole album an outdoorsy feel to it, best listened to late at night, possibly during a writing session. Ever the freaknik, Tobacco spaces out the lazy neon haze with breakdowns of pure noise, maintaining a basic sonic structure but letting the melody run wild and take your mind with it. Music like this is rarely a trip, but even though Tobacco may not want you to know his name, he wants you to go on this voyage with him.

The album is more of one long composition with distinct movements than a song-by-song effort, but as far as highlights go, “Gods In Heat” wouldn’t sound out of place at the electronic stage at an eclectic summer festival, and “Home Invasionaries” and “Dimensional Hum” channel Sonic the Hedgehog soundtracks infused with lo-fi grunge rock. The reverb-soaked vocals are trademark Tobacco as well; slightly confusing, almost unnecessary, but wholly adding to the experience.

As the album moves on, it moves through similar themes: old-school videogame effects, chords building on chords, sometimes cacophonic, other times mellow and refreshing. Like most Tobacco music, it almost feels improvisational with the amount of differing motifs that are introduced and immediately abandoned, only to reappear later wearing a different face. It reminds me of a more laconic, soft-spoken, less spastic Animal Collective. It’s musical painting, modern abstract art in aural form. Sparse yet enveloping, it’s a real treat for the ears.

If you need music for studying, for chilling out, for reading, or just something outside the box, give Sweatbox Dynasty a try. Taken as a whole it’s a very soothing record, with a lush jazz-inflected sensibility to its tripped-out psychic electronica. Tobacco has always been an artist of a defined style, even if that style is undefinable, and it’s always a pleasure to hear his new music.

Rating 9 out of 10