What came first: the artist or the song? For CMB, it’s the latter.
In 2010, Casey Desmond received an invitation to play an improv synth set at a local music festival. The CMB moniker came later, and then, again but in real form, so did the songs some five years later. She began working through recordings of her live sets from the festival, picking out what could be salvaged, what was catchy, and what carried the spirit of her new band. Improv sits stoic at its heart. As such, Desmond’s first official EP as CMB, Three Licks, saw her producing the tracks days prior to its EP release show this Wednesday.
Don’t assume the moniker is equally spontaneous. It’s shorthand for Cosmic Microwave Background, the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang. Scientists only discovered its existence in 1964. “I find that puzzling, that proof of the birth of our universe is staring directly at us, and that few humans are actually aware of it,” Desmond says. “It’s inspired me to a sort of spiritual degree; though I consider myself an atheist, it almost feels godly.” It’s right there in the intro track “Relic Radiation”: “I believe / I believe in what the naked eye won’t see / I believe in what we need machines to perceive.”
Though less commercial than her usual material, Desmond’s work as CMB recalls the experimental electronics of Dan Deacon, Grimes, and Tobacco while adding her own organic directions, mainly through heavy doses of nostalgia. The record comes with its dark corners, too, including a track that sees her work through the death of her best friend.
“I want to go back to the past and feel those feelings again, and the only way to do it is to be together and create new memories,” she explains. “It’s a bittersweet solution where the cycle never stops. I write about that a lot. When the world was supposed to end back in December of 2012, my friend Andy Devlin wrapped a room of our friends up in neon pink string by dancing around us, pulling us all together in a web. We stayed that way for what seemed like forever, pulling and moving with each other to music as one unit. I’ll never forget that night.” Moments like that, vibrant and hyperemotional, push through her music, even if those specificities aren’t obvious to a listener separated from Desmond’s personal experiences.
“The universe is everything, and we are little pieces of it,” Desmond tacks on with certainty. Let’s take it a little farther. After all, given time, CMB will be more than a little piece of Boston’s universe. Her music pushes you to strive the same.
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