Just what kind of music would you expect from a band whose name suggests it spawned from some kind of bio-genetic, cell-modification experiment gone wrong? Superorganism. The very word conjures interesting images. Something large and looming. Grandiose and gluttonous. Scary perhaps. The multinational, eight-piece experimental pop collective are set to drop their self-titled debut later this week and it is, in neither glorification or condemnation, unlike anything that has come before it. With one ear for danceable pop hooks and melodies, one ear for grotesque and obscure samples and a mutant third ear for all things otherworldly, this music is, if nothing else, a representation of the insane melting pot of culture, creation and communication that is human civilisation in 2018.
Though many of the members have been in connection over the last ten years, the band only became fully formed a little more than one year ago and have since been taking their oddball brand of alt-pop to the world. Using their own stage names and having a member of the band with the sole role of art production for their live shows, videos and album art, they give off a similar vibe to something like Andy Warhol’s Factory and The Velvet Underground, being that they seem much more than just a band but rather, a living, breathing pop culture machine. The first we heard of Superorganism was the single “Something For Your M.I.N.D”, released in early 2017 and putting the band on the tongues and minds of industry folks worldwide. Showcasing the vital creative inputs of Harry’s surfy, bottle-neck guitar and Emily’s juicy, outer-space synths, it was the perfect taste of what was to come: pop, psychedelia and electronica all at once. It is worthy to note that this song was the band’s first collaboration with singer Orono Noguchi and it actually took place while she was still attending boarding school in the United States. The rest of the band, in London, decided to send a GarageBand file to Noguchi who proceeded to write some lyrics, overdub them using her laptop microphone and send it back within hours of receiving it. And this was the true moment of birth. Impressed, they promptly released the track through various digital outlets and invited Noguchi to tramp on over to London to be the lead singer in the band.
A common way for the band to write songs is to create melodies or musical movements on their own or in a smaller sub-group and then pass it on digitally through the house with each member adding something or modifying elements until a certain direction is ascertained and the song comes into fruition. Considering they all now live in the same house, it may seem like an odd approach, but it’s one that works. Another four singles were released through late 2017 and early 2018 and they feature as the first four songs on the album. Opener “It’s All Good” comes in with the sound of rain and a heavily distorted voice announcing the arrival of the morning and the darkness of the weather. A suitably dirty bass line drops in, mixing with a sporadic drum beat coaxing the swagger out of us without much effort, but on top of this then comes a delightfully jovial melody, providing a wacky juxtaposition on which the rest of the song floats. With the vocals of Noguchi being given a healthy position in the mix, she deadpans “Scream, I just had a dream where my friends all dissolved away,” painting an initially morbid picture that is subsequently destroyed by the massive chorus blasting the title words with ecstasy. Catchy as they come and with a warped sense of joy, it’s a nice first taste of the album.
Something close to a common thread, at least through the first half of the record, is the pervading negative attitude towards self-importance. A cliché perhaps, but a worthy one nonetheless and no more purely expressed than in the next track, “Everybody Wants To Be Famous”. Entering with a steady beat and tremendously spacey synth swells, it slowly builds up to another swirling and incredibly catchy chorus as the harmonies come in to roar the hopeful refrain, “I think it could be me”. Despite the undertones of sarcasm, it may well be on the cards. The musing on modern sensibilities carries on in “Reflections On The Screen”, an interesting comment on the human reliance on phones, laptops and TV screens. Noguchi takes us through a fragmented storyline of internet dramas, only to mysteriously admit that “there’s something so affecting in the reflections on the screen”, touching on that feeling that these machines are, in some odd and frightening way, addictive.
Though these songs continue to weave their own unique thread and come close to defying description, there is one factor which binds them all together: they all lie on a firm bedrock of truly danceable groove and rhythm. “Nobody Cares” carries on this vibe with a wickedly bombastic breakdown midway through and delivering on either side raw and truthful lyrics bursting with relevance in the technological age, “Sweet relief when you grow up and see for yourself, nobody cares”. Stunningly astute wisdom coming from a 17 year old. “SPRORGNSM” is undoubtedly the most outrageous moment on the album. It waddles in with some underwater synth reminiscent of Spongebob Squarepants before dropping in a punchy drum track and a deep, growling bassline ultimately building to an atom bomb of a chorus, proclaiming “I have to be a superorganism”. You can almost feel the members of the band forming into one huge, green blob of sound and light on this one.
The weird vibes continue on into the bottom end, “Nai’s March” slowing things down a little and seeing Noguchi sing tribute to Tokyo. Being one of the main technological hubs on Earth, she sings of a fear for its future in the ever-progressing modern age but underneath she cannot hide that she aches for her homeland. Harry’s guitar, crashing like waves across the mellow bouncing synth bass, produces a nostalgic ambience not yet heard but it isn’t long before the track descends into a middle section that feels like an underwater acid trip in the arcade land of Mario and Luigi. Stranger still, “The Prawn Song” tells of a disgust for the human race and an apparent desire to escape it by means of becoming a prawn and dwelling at the bottom of the sea. Squelchy synth pulses and more automated spoken word shine through but this one will perhaps go over the heads of most. The album is rounded out with “Relax” and “Night Time”, two of the more accessible songs. A little lighter on the freakish samples and a little more traditionally pop-oriented, these give things a nice balance and let us down easy from the strange trip that was this record. “Night Time” ends with a sample of an iPhone ringtone and a yawn, accompanied by whispers of “wake up, wake up, wake up” and it would seem that that concept in general is the underlying theme.
With a startlingly original and crazy use of modern music making methods, Superorganism are making a metaphor of themselves. They use these songs as explorations that dive right into the very essence of the ideas they expound and break down. They are constantly walking the line between being a product of their time and a parody of their time, combining indulgence and irony in equal measure and making pure examples of themselves in order to show us what we need to wake up to. Undoubtedly, this album will not be for everyone. The music and the way it all moves may just be too much for some. Indeed, there certainly is nicer sounding music to listen to, but the heart of this album and this band is in what they represent: the idea that artistry and creativity is always open for reinvention and fresh interpretation – even if it is getting crazier all the time in the hands of bands like Superorganism.
Superorganism is released Friday 2nd March via Domino Records.