One of my all-time favorite conceptual descriptors is “soup.” As in my therapist’s phrase: “soupy emotional territory” or even, “primordial soup.” It suggests something paradoxical that is or was many things, but is also one.
Superorganism is soupy.
When the 8-piece band takes the stage on Thursday at the new DTLA venue, Moroccan Lounge, they are all clad in neon raincoats and glitter; they carry tambourines with rainbow streamers, looking like cosmic explorers in a universe raining highlighter ink and 8-bit unicorns. At the front of the stage is Orono. She is all of 4’11,” hails from Japan-via-Maine, and is the leader of both the band and the mythos behind it (which is nearly as important to their identity as their signature avant-pop sound.) The band is very clear on two things:
1. Superorganism is a single entity. “WE ARE SUPERORGANISM, WE ARE IN MAINE/LONDON, WE ARE EIGHT AND MULTIPLYING, WE HAVE BECOME SENTIENT,” reads their bio.
2. Superorganism is not a cult.
“You can trust us,” frontwoman Orono assures us from the stage at the Moroccan. “Superorganism is not a cult. We’re all really nice and trustworthy people. That’s really true. Superorganism is not a cult.” She deadpans this in a singsongy kind of way, the way a cartoon version of a cult leader might.
The night is a playful mixture of lore-creation and catchy, experimental pop as likely to sample 8-bit arcade tunes for its hook as it is a door hinge. Orono narrates a journey from “the ocean” to “Tokyo” to outer space. On screens around the stage, the visual totems of Superorganism are projected. The band favors images of the ocean and cosmos – potent representations of that which is both one and many.
The setlist (most of which I had never heard before, as Superorganism has released only three singles) is cryptic and detailed and often quite funny (there is one song about prawns; the screens behind the band read: “DO NOT TRUST PRAWNS”). Through every song, Superorganism’s production captivates. The samples are unexpected and raw, sounding endearingly like what they are – a bite from an apple, a door hinge, a fizzing soda – and folding seamlessly into a carnivalesque pop hall-of-mirrors where vocals undulate wildly and synths bounce in and out of harmony.
The Real Story of Superorganism is now known widely around the Internet; it’s 2017 and an amorphous, dubious cult creature cannot remain secret for long. You can google it if you’re so inclined. But before you do I’d encourage you to go see the organism in the flesh. Treat yourself to a bit of mystery. And don’t trust prawns.