It's a comparison that Rainbow Arabia are probably sick of, but there's no way of around it: they sound quite like The Knife. It's not just the way that, in certain breathless moments, Tiffany Preston's voice sounds similar to Karin Dreijer Andersson's—they also share a fondness for big, hollowed-out synth sounds. F.M. Sushi, the LA duo's second proper album, is precisely the kind of odd, engagingly raw synth pop that The Knife were trading in prior to Silent Shout.
That might sound like damning Rainbow Arabia with feint praise. Far from it. In The Knife's evolution into something more serious, they lost a lot of what Rainbow Arabia still have in spades: innocent charm, vulnerability, a winningly lo-fi, art-pop sensibility. There are moments when F.M. Sushi flirts with the clichés of '80s major label synth-pop: declarative piano lines, synths mimicking guitar solos, saxophones, airbrushed keys that come perilously close to sounding like pan pipes, and so on. Unlike a band like Hurts, however, Rainbow Arabia get away with it because there isn't a bombastic bone in their bodies. Their aesthetic is more ZE than EMI.
Not that Rainbow Arabia are alone in those qualities—there are plenty of cute but ineffectual synth acts operating in similar territory. What sets them apart is their songcraft and their gift for arrangement. It is exquisite. They always had hooks, but where the appeal of their debut, Boys And Diamonds, lay mainly in its world music rhythms and melodies, FM Sushi is straighter, painstaking in its own low-budget way and—bathed as it is in a potent fug of despairing melancholy—far more emotionally resonant. The way key tracks ("Thai Iced Tea," "Precreation," "He Is Sorcerer," the beautiful, Chromatics-like "FM Sushi") unfold with such easy, irrefutable logic is the mark of a band in the zone.
Buy Rainbow Arabia - FM Sushi at
Tracklist: Rainbow Arabia - FM Sushi 01 Rivers Edge
02 He Is Sorcercer
03 Math Quiz
04 Lacking Risk
05 Thai Iced Tea
06 Three Moons
07 Fm Sushi
09 Moments I Had
10 Silence Me