Tomato Flower – Gold Arc / Construction

7.7.22 by Matty McPherson

Ramp Local, the label/PR workhorse of Jake Saunders, has been steadily cranking out titles for over seven years. You check that back catalog – Stice, Godcaster, Lily (Konigsberg) & Horn Horse, Palberta (also lily konigsberg)… there’s a clear pattern here of “whimsically batshit and dead-eyed, but not fussy” pop that finds you, more than you find it. As a result, every now and again you expect to find yourself with a strange set of mavericky nuggets that you can’t quite detach yourself from, nor know how to exactly pin down for folks. You worry if you go to stump for this kind of stuff, you might be booed out of the indie night or have tomatoes thrown at you. 

Of course, that’s not the case with Tomato Flower. They’re a Baltimore start-up that spent about 18 or so months writing and testing each other’s wits with what they could pull together. They rather casually dropped a sub-13 minute digital EP, Gold Arc, back in early February. It’s the kind of release that requires both a minimal amount of words to describe and yet insists on an essay-level treatise of why THIS sound is so goddamn potent. If you know your early Slumberland, your decade-old Captured Tracks rarities, you like to go “Sam Prekop mode,” or have been tuned to the working of the Paisley Shirt label, then you likely will resonate with Tomato Flower’s second-mover level pop ditties. Their spunky and quippy style of playing emphasizes rhythms first, then builds illustrious sound design that rewards endless listens. And none of the songs on Gold Arc passed the three minute mark; itself the truest indicator of a band with immense pop wit. It practically radiated bioluminescence.

So, it’s with a light heart that Gold Arc is being collected with Tomato Flower’s next, equally rewarding EP followup, Construction, here on August 5th as Gold Arc / Construction. Note the artwork, a combination of both digital EPs artwork. Whereas Gold Arc was the “utopic,” free-thinking EP,  Construction is being touted as a more earthly batch of songs, tethered to the daily grind and endless shockwaves that rupture from its wake. Just from the tropicalia-inflected opener, Bug, you garner a sense that the humidity is way-up and a storm lies ahead. Construction’s other ditties are slower and more ponderous, although sudden whiplash from sonic epiphanies practically threaten to burst at any moment. And yes, three of the tracks now either flirt or outright bomp past the three minute mark! 😮

One such case is Construction, our title track! There’s a sense of legitimate whimsy that evokes Omni’s nervy pace-changes–we literally jump into chorus without much of a warning! Yet, Tomato Flower is denser, flooding the sound with synths in the vein of a trip to Super Mario Sunshine and Austyn Wohlers’ earnest lyricism of day-to-day bygones and adventures. Meanwhile, Fancy (nearly hitting five minutes), is the closest Tomato Flower has come to channeling latter day slowcore. By that I mean it is a spaced-out lounge track on a wavelength between Crumb and Horse Jumper of Love, a suggestive track that suggests symptomatic undercurrents in indie writ large. 

In the EPs most gobstopping moments, Tomato Flower channels a realm of Stereolab-core that hasn’t been completely given its proper due. I’m specifically alluding to tracks Blue and Aparecida. The former’s polyrhythmic strut n’ step puts it in line with present day indie, but when the song hits its halfway point, it suddenly turns into an ambient synth lullaby–its a technique Cibo Matto pulled off brilliantly on their longforms back in the day, but Tomato Flower update with precocious wit. The latter’s only running with enough gas in the tank to last 100 seconds, and each one counts. The tropicalia-tinged track practically unleashes a new synth whoop, chord change, or cymbal wink with every second.

Needless to say, Construction’s compilation and track pacing are a varnished introductory report of where Tomato Flower is at. Perhaps though, the truest knowledge of where their minds are at will be garnered when out on the road with Animal Collective this summer. Goodness what a time to be alive!

Edition of 500 available from the Ramp Local Bandcamp Page