Rainbow Island – Crystal Smerluvio Riddims

(No=Fi / Flying Kids Records, 2017)

Mirapuri was a dream, a hashish haze, points A and B being identical, equidistant, however you understand spatial construction. Rainbow Island might have been lost on the path, or Rainbow Island might have been the destination all along. It took two sides of a cassette tape to figure it out. There was a “Rainbow Road” (like in Mario Kart 64!) and a “Mirapuri Lagoon” (like in Mario Kart 64! …Wait, no that’s not right), and on or in both you could lose yourself. The reels spun, the tape magnetized, and we were off.

Crystal Smerluvio Riddims keeps that vibe splendidly intact. Maybe the title is an indication (or a dead giveaway), but the rhythms of dub and dancehall permeate the psychedelic synthesizer excursions Rainbow Island has perfected into their own signature blend. Recalling 1970s psych and prog maestros, such as Antonio Vuolo and Elio Grande and Tangerine Dream, and modern weirdo mavens Date Palms, Mountains, and Heroin in Tahiti (some of which my esteemed colleague John namechecked in his review of Road to Mirapuri, linked above), Rainbow Island harnesses the power of the ocean in tropical climes, manufacturing an interpretation of the ebbs and flows of tides and the movement of currents. The result is explosively electromodular, kinetic, and head-noddingly righteous, a combination guaranteed to bust you out of your stupor, not put you into one.

“Fat Sak” serves as a second clue at Rainbow Island’s direction, and is more a ball-peen hammer to the face than a hint that “riddims” will receive more than a cursory nod within the composition of this album. That doesn’t mean that the heavy psych will genuflect in response – on the contrary, the combination of the two serves as a battering ram of great ideas, where tropics and Italy collide like calamity in the midst of a typhoon. Electronic pulses and chaotic patterns erupt from “Fat Sak,” spinning it off its axis but defining it in its madness. It and “8 Yap” (and to a lesser extent “Gigi Rally”) represent vibrant turns outside the realm of what we might think of as “traditional psych” (whose definition is probably almost constantly in flux) and toward the wonderful hybrid Rainbow Island is constantly tweaking toward perfection.

But that psych – oh, that psych, when it bears down and plows forward, there’s nothing like it, and Rainbow Island once again proves that they’re capable of hanging with the big boys. “Phase Spider” is a dream-inducing head trip that unfolds over nine minutes, evolving within itself like the blobs of a lava lamp. “Rotating Peach” begins as a dub-heavy low-end jaunt but blossoms into a sonic lightshow, as incomprehensible and yet perfectly visible as that description suggests. “Jiāng” ends the album on a ten-minute crystalline voyage, as translucent as a glass prism. Maybe it’s obvious, then, that Crystal Smerluvio Riddims is just begging for multiple listens, as each subsequent one teases out new and exciting elements missed the first time – it’s hard to focus on everything at once, especially if you just get caught up in the thing and ride it like a wave to shore. Once you arrive, you can pop back up and head back out – there aren’t any red flag warnings for dangerous currents or marine life.

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