Originally released a couple years back on the Mille Plateaux sub-label of Ritornell, And The Black Moths Play The Grand Cinema has now found re-release through the Staubgold record label. Roberts re-surfaced with a solo disc on Kranky last year entitled Be Mine Tonight and while it found him moving in slightly less deconstructed ways, it held a lot of things in common with his earlier work. Roberts has a unique style of computer-aided anti-rock and it was on this original release that he first let loose with it.
Over the course of 7 tracks and just over 40 minutes, the real key to the release is both how sparse and restrained things are. It seems to be an element of all his work, and the release is almost maddening at times because of it. "The Fake And Detached" opens the release with filtered micro-tones before tapping hi-hats and shards of guitars stab out over the top. The electronics never leave the track, and they keep the uneasy-ness level high as all over elements drop away to reveal them again with quiet vocals before the whole track shambles to a build of loud vocals, drums and guitars and then falls apart again. It's one of the only places on the entire album where the volume is raised and the track is one of the best because of the release. The closing of the track again winds down to a repeating electronic element that repeats nearly completely through the entire following track.
Although there's definitely a unifying feel to the tracks on this release, the carryover theme used throughout the album also helps bridge the different tracks together along with minimal drum work. Sparse and brushed cymbals and hi-hats make for many moments of tension on the release, but because it rarely breaks loose with much more, it sometimes makes for a frustrating release. "You And The Devil Blues" frustrates as repetitive guitar strums play out under almost 7 minutes of brushed cymbals while random studio plinks and plonks creep into the mix. "The Grandest Of Streets" works in very similar ways, repeating the cymbal taps and guitars while one of the earlier electronic flickers enters the mix towards the end and leads to the skittering percussive finale of "The Dole Of Liars." Like many other tracks on the release, it seems to start with a lot of potential and then simply repeats itself. As a whole, And The Black Moths Play The Grand Cinema is a release of uneasy tension that rarely gives way and lets loose. The places that it does work the better for it, and in many other places simply leaves you wishing for a break. Roberts obviously refined his style a bit from this effort to Be Mine Tonight and hopefully he'll continue doing so in the future.