The Moth & The Flame
That beautiful musical squiggle and the enigmatic former 27th letter of the alphabet, the ampersand casually calls for attention. Over time, the & has come to mean more than the word it was created to represent, because it signifies a more close-knit relationship.
Think of the moth & the flame, literally: longing & luster, a flitter & a flicker. The Moth & the Flame, a Los Angeles-based three-piece rock band, deals in the musical language of close-knit dualities on &, their forthcoming EP. Over a cohesive batch of five songs, the themes of sadness & hope and desire & betrayal come to life on a musical canvas colored by Brandon Robbins' lyrics and atypical guitar melodies, Mark Garbett's textural keyboards, and Andrew Tolman's complex drum lines.
TM&TF made a name for themselves in their hometown of Provo, Utah, (birthplace of Neon Trees and Imagine Dragons) with their 2011 self-titled debut album of thoughtful, enigmatic music and visual art to accompany it. However on &, they explore a decisively percussive-heavy approach with the band's newest member Andrew Tolman and producer Joey Waronker, celebrated drummer for Atoms for Peace and Beck.
Waronker, an accomplished rhythm master and unorthodox producer, helped the band break outside of themselves to capture chaos & beauty. There are moments of maximalism and also minimalism--and sometimes both at the same time--as TM&TF challenges listeners with tempestuous, visceral songs. Street sounds like dogs barking, children crying, and even a woman yelling into a megaphone show TM&TF’s keen eye for detail. Driving rhythms oscillate between standard and atypical time signatures that can, at times, be chaotic and bent; this is met with melody lines augmented and distorted by pitch bending, filtering, and looping. The music tilts and teeters nearly out of control, but there's always a backbone, always an opposing, upright force acting as the compass point. Bleating, atonal notes help create the musical drama and tension to meet the lyrical mood of &.
For TM&TF, capturing a particular feeling lies at the center of their songwriting; they strive to assess each turn in the writing and recording process and ask if it serves the greater mood of a song. The lead single, "Sorry," an intense, cathartic track, sets the tone for & and introduces the recurring themes of desire & betrayal and sadness & hope. Other songs, like “Monster,” showcase a musical blend of chaos & beauty, which builds to a wild sounding jumble, yet never blossoms to resolution.
Thematic, intentional music is nothing new for TM&TF, who have always had heavy inclinations towards crafting a precise aesthetic for their sounds, which often play in tandem with visual art. The band's debut album was only made available in physical copies, because the music & the art were integral; the band noted that the cover art was the first track. TM&TF is known for their elaborate art installations. A series of 20-foot-tall anthropomorphic giant sculptures announced their debut album almost two years ago. Since, stereo-bots and hanging ampersands have announced more sold-out shows, where the band transformed venues into moonscapes, or starry nights, or floating lantern dreamscapes.
& is a singular statement of the band as they make the leap to the national stage. It heralds a forthcoming LP (spring 2014) that will showcase a wider swath of moods, genres, and soundscapes.
In such context, an & is an intersection that is charged, where artistic creation & playfulness of form meet and where the monumental & the miniature dance at the flame's edge. &
- Austen Diamond