The wife/husband group release a slow burner with a tasty title.
6.5 / 10
Married duo Rainbow Arabia already have a couple of EP’s and a full-length album under their belt. The couple, Tiffany and Danny Preston, have received some attention already thanks to their touring schedule and the placement of the song “Without You” in a prominent scene on HBO’s Eastbound and Down. Tiffany fronts the group with her vocals and guitar, while her husband Danny works the keys and synths. It might sound like a stripped down format, but the band’s sound is surprisingly full. Their sophomore album, FM Sushi, showcases the band streamlining their sound, kicking out the wrinkles in the music that littered their debut Boys and Diamonds.
The band’s sound is less worldly/exotic this time around – most of the musical palette here is derived from synthpop and 1970’s proto-electronic bands like Tangerine Dream. There are a few differences here from their past work – multi-instrumentalist Dylan Ryan was brought in to provide Rainbow Arabia an extra hand with percussion. The drums on the record strike a good balance between live sounds and programmed ones. One of the most annoying things about bands featuring many of the synthesizer/retro sounds of the 1980’s is the inclusion of stale drum machines. The drums on FM Sushi more or less are just here to keep time, but it never sounds robotic or machine-like. Additionally, all of the arrangements are well-crafted, so that while Rainbow Arabia might have an old sound, it never comes across like a gimmick.
The title track is the best cut on the record; “FM Sushi” is a bit quieter and more mournful that most of the other tracks, and it’s reliance on atmosphere proves to be a success. During the verses, there’s not much going on other than Tiffany Preston’s vocals, but it works. And when the synthesizers come in, they’re used as an additive effect, so the synths on the song are not so much core to the song as much as a flourish. The track feels like a turning point on the record – many of the latter songs are a bitter darker and more spacious than the first half. The last track “Silence Me,” has a sticky synth run, and it’s a cross between something cute and something skin-crawlingly creepy.
Compared to their last record, FM Sushi feels like a more mature record. Not only are the lyrics a bit more serious, but Rainbow Arabia feel comfortable with themselves in the studio. Boys and Diamonds was uncertain at times, and its style jumped around in bouts of experimentation. FM Sushi feels less like the band is dabbling now and more like they are beginning to discover and refine their own sound. There are a few moments of bubblegum-pop – “He is Sorcerer” might be one of the most immediate tracks here because it’s happy and approachable. The best tracks on this record though, aren’t the ones that go for immediate pleasure centers – when Rainbow Arabia slow themselves down, their music hints that one of their greatest strengths might be a knack for arrangement and atmosphere rather than melody.