The Skull Defekts - Skkull (Release the Bats CD)
Sweden's Skull Defekts only showed up on my radar last year when they shared sides of a 12" with Wolf Eyes on a split called "Yes I Am Your Angel", which I always thought was a great title for an album. I thought they had been around for a while and were only just coming up strong recently but it turns out their discography only appears to date back to 2005. They've been making up for lost time, though, by releasing music in a variety of formats on labels like iDEAL, Kning Disk, Meudiademorte, and Utech, not to mention upcoming actions on Riot Season and Conspiracy Records. For now, however, this recent Release the Bats CD is my first and only exposure to this collective, comprised of Henrik Rylander, Jean-Louis Huhta, Joachim Nordwall, and Daniel Fagerström, the latter of which is absent from the sessions that produced what you hear on "Skkull" (although he's responsible for the album art). Regarding the album title, the digipak inlay has this to say: "THE DOUBLE K IS FEEDBACKING YOUR SKKULL. BEWARE. EXPLODE." I might just have to, thank you.
Apparently "Skkull" is a more stripped-down album compared to earlier releases, and it's also all-electronic which seems to be a new (or rare) thing from them. There's four tracks to be found here, and they total roughly 35 minutes worth of running time. They're also four remarkably unique pieces of drone/noise/"experimental" paraphenelia. The first, "Sex Fracture", starts out so disjointed and stuttery it makes you check whether all your audio equipment is functioning properly, until you slowly begin to pull a sense of pattern from the disrupted, droning shudders. A searing electronic loop and a dark ambient churn interlock and rip apart like rusted gears, with ominous blurts of dramatic organ grinding providing a foundation that threatens full-collapse at any second. Somehow, it's all kept together despite the weight of fragility the entire piece carries. It sounds like the trio played a straight-forward, near-symphonic stretch of sound and then chopped it up and restructured it to be all the more disorienting. It sounds like it shouldn't work in theory, but it does, and does real great at that. It's surely one of the finer noise-as-composition arguments I've heard in an age; some real high class caterwaul here. Elsewhere, the band aren't quite as active, serving up monotonous soups like "Carved in Bones" and "Six Six for Eyes" that concentrate more on black light strobing droneworks and dark laptop/synthesizer tones, repeated and built on. Regardless of how simple the formula may be, the execution is so fluid that it's pretty difficult not to fall into the Skull Defekts' trance. But the group are at their best when they're most far-reaching, which is evident not only on "Sex Fracture" but on the tremendous "Breathing Your Face", by far the best demonstration of the band's compositional skills and their knack for unlikely rhythms, as they work up an insistent, staticky pulse that sounds like an on-rushing ghost train replete with steam engine wheezing and metal-on-metal cla-clacking. Their organic production often sounds downright moist and reminds me a lot of the sinewy atmosphere drawn on by fellow Scandinavians Supersilent, while the morose electro-percussion strikes sound suspiciously like twisted takes on Konono No. 1's likembes. Wait, I didn't know this was the new Bjork album already? Where're Corsano and the Lightning Bolt dude at?
The Skull Defekt's tracks a lot more rigid and structured than their contemporaries' in, for example, Wolf Eyes, and they're all more imbued with a very heavy Throbbing Gristle or Nurse with Wound feel. Maybe an even better, more geographically-appropriate reference would be the Swedish-born Cold Meat Industries label, as I can definitely see these guys taking big time notes from the likes of Atrium Carceri and In Slaughter Natives. Although each member is already an experienced musician in his own right (members have played or play in bands like Alvars Orkester, Kid Commando, Anti Cimex, Trapdoor Fucking Exit, etc), the way they come together as a unit after only having been together for a few years is pretty outstanding. I could've done with a little more invention/inspiration on the two, uh, quieter tracks ("Carved in Bones" and "Six Six for Eyes") but it's not like I was offended by em and the other two were so good that I'm not about to worry about anyone's growth being stunted here either. Though I can tell you I'm now actively looking forward to the "Blood Spirits & Drums Are Singing" LP on Conspiracy, due mid-June.
Carved in Bones (excerpt)
Breathing Your Face (excerpt)