Recently adding a third party to the matrimonial electronica duo has changed things up for Rainbow Arabia. Originally the act was couple Danny and Tiffany Preston, but between the release of their well-received 2011 debut Boys And Diamonds and the forthcoming FM Sushi, they added Dylan Ryan (of Cursive fame) to make the sparkly outfit a ménage à trois.
They pleasantly surprised naysayers with their first offering – tinged with African and Asian influences it was a soothing respite from the haze of throttling chillwave. This new effort relies more on synths, and though the worldly inspirations aren’t entirely gone, FM Sushi serves more as a straight-up synthpop LP with elements of lo-fi and electronica thrown in for good measure.
The most obvious drawback is how delicate on the palate this record can be. When it could swoop into a doom-filled abyss, it just sort of lingers near the surface; when the noises could drift forever into oblivion, they remain grounded. It verges on being potentially too insular and safe, and those more far-travelled influences of their past material would be welcome additions to the fray. At one of the most adventurous times, ‘Thai Iced Tea’, they employ a saxophone to carry the melody rather than Tiffany, which works wonders – the difference in timbre is beautifully jarring. A lot of the synth-heavy sounds would appreciate some interruption or assault. Their track ‘Lacking Risk’ probably sums it up better and with more irony.
Opener ‘Rivers Edge’ blossoms with ’90s house stabs and wild Dr. Who pads – Preston sauntering across the top, spewing jagged spikes of vocal sugar. The staccato delivery mimics the percussion, and her clipped words echo between synthetisized pylons. ‘He Is Sorcerer’ rekindles memories of ‘I’m Not Your Toy’ by La Roux – its sweet hook bleep-bloops mechanically. It’s a syrupy, almost-goofy sounding track, ever-so-light but kind of surreal; all rather Alice In Wonderland. ‘Three Moons’ would find the Drive soundtrack a pleasant place to call home. It’s a sweeping, scythe-hewn sheaf of dark keys and noirtronica, dusted with reverb and ’80s new wave sternness.
If they’re trying to be twee (and some of the record does have a saccharine quality), they’d be more prudent to go the whole hog and shove in some infant choirs and toy pianos. As it is, the record suffers from a bit of a personality crisis: they hint at deeper sonic explorations and more vibrant experiments, but the result is a bit greying and lacking in confidence. That said, some efforts are chilling and brilliant: ‘Three Moons’ is fantastic, ‘Thai Iced Tea’ has the best use of saxophone this side of ‘Midnight City’ by M83, and ‘Math Quiz’ is an ’80s pop charmer. The band approach a precipice with FM Sushi. Behind them, a zone of tried-and-tested safety – but if they decide to take a leap of faith, the end consequences could be groundbreaking. They’ve not quite mustered the courage to take the plunge yet, and instead what we have with FM Sushi is a band teetering on the cusp of greatness.