Listening to Gold Arc, the debut EP from Tomato Flower can be a delightfully maddening experience. There are so many intriguing ideas happening, so many unique musical tidbits, and it’s all over in about 13 minutes. There are dreamy elements of Stereolab, subtle (and not-so-subtle) shifts in style and time signatures that recall their sonic cousins, Spirits Having Fun, and even mild nods to prog rock. It’s a lot to take in and will hopefully be followed up with a full-length release before too long.
Featuring Austyn Wohlers, Jamison Murphy, and Mike Alfieri on various instruments (and later adding Ruby Mars on bass), Gold Arc sees Tomato Flower embracing a type of utopia that “exists in the compromise between escapism and intellectual inquiry, between conceptual philosophy and pop-rock bliss”. The EP kicks off with “Red Machine”, which also happens to be the debut single, combining sweet crooning with mild Tropicalia vibes. The video includes shots both of mass production and picturesque nature, perhaps as a blueprint of a type of ideal existence – a community transformed by the combination of sustainable bounty and natural beauty.
“There’s a place for me in the world to come / My garden cruel and beautiful,” Murphy sings on “World to Come”, and while the lyrics offer hope and positivity in the face of a growing global pessimism, the music follows suit with a deeply relaxing, jazzy vibe. But they’re not above a few knotty curveballs, as “Truth Lounge” embraces odd time signatures and some woozy, space-age synth figures from Wohlers. Likewise, the retro organ figure that introduces “Lover’s Arc” adds a classic pop element before a comforting dream-pop feel takes over. These small stylistic shifts seem subtle when taken one by one, but they create an overall eclectic sound that’s unique and refreshing.
Elsewhere, “Stone” begins as a tender, tentative ballad but soon transforms into a jittery math-rock number, as Murphy’s guitar work embraces jazzy prog – all in less than 90 seconds. There’s a breezy, driving feel to the EP’s closer, “Shying”, with the band shifting back and forth between effects-treated guitar riffs and multi-level vocalizing from Wohlers. The truly collective nature of this group, throwing in sonic concepts in such a random yet oddly synchronized manner, is exciting and refreshing. With Gold Arc, Tomato Flower presents themselves as a band with a wealth of musical ideas – the music is odd, inspired, a bit jarring, and truly beautiful.