The Skaters - Dispersed Royalty Ornaments (Wabana LP) / Dripping Avenues (Self-released CS)
Sunday on the way to a show a friend played me a great tape by either James Ferraro or Spencer Clark. It was the ridiculous one with the photocopied mustachoied dude on the cover and had a ridiculous title that might've involved the word "Lamborghini". It was influenced by disco. It was also on Volcanic Tongue for a couple of shakes of the lamb's tail. I was glad to hear it because it was a great, spot-hitting set of summer jams, and I had only recently begun to re-integrate myself into Skaters mode, since I guess I go through phases of listening to them. When I got home I remembered that I had these two documents just waiting to drill me off to sleep, and thought they'd make good blog fodder in the meanwhile. Skaters LPs are a rare enough sight so I had to snatch up the beautiful-looking "Dispersed Royalty Ornaments" courtesy Wabana as soon as I learned of its existence and the "Dripping Avenues" tape was a throw in to a Fusetron order or something a while ago because you can never have too much Skaters and you can never have too many cassettes...and you can never have too many Skaters on too many cassettes, of course.
There's never too much back story behind anything these guys ever put out, but Wabana spins the yarn that Ferraro and Clark are out there (Berlin and beyond, I'd assume) working on their private imaginations as they call em, with no phone and no Internet service and no way to field all the major label offers they've been getting! Well anyway they made a pretty good statement to the A&Rs of the omniverse with "Dispersed Royalty Ornaments". It features four untitled pieces, two per side, both split pretty cleanly down the middle of each vinyl side. The pieces themselves aren't too different from another but each side seems to represent a different sound, idea, session, what have you. The first is pierced with a bit more clarity than I've come to expect from later day Skaters & related (particularly Clark's Vodka Soap)...usually they're so wrapped up in muddy fug it's tough to get a grip on anything, but this one cuts through. A knower compared it to electric Miles and on first needle touch I thought he was yanking me but then I thought about it for a while as the two fiddled with knobs and dials and field recordings and microphones and it really started to soak through. And speaking of soaking through, I can definitely smell these guys recording this side belly button-deep in steamy, fetid, decomposing mush, all kinds of jungle fever and hidden throat works. Parts of this side really remind me of the yowling sets/tapes from local psychnoise trio Ste-Sophie though I guess that's hardly a useful point to you, unless you heard em. The Second Side's two pieces are even more disparate and minimal, serieseses of alien fetus yelps and groans simmered in a hazy stew of drooling aural flake. The sound poured onto the black wax here seems to melt and leak right off the turntable, till it's all over the floor and seeping into your ears that way. That way. If the first side was electric Miles, then the second side is a mutant Townes Van Zandt, stretched to paper-thin consistency and sloppily wound back up again. You'll know it if you hear it. Maybe.
The "Dripping Avenues" tape has already seen the light in a couple of forms. First, its B-side is "Wind Drapeing Incense", which was their side to the "California" 10xLP box set. Secondly, the whole thing (incl. "Dripping Avenues) was released by Sick Head Tapes in an edition of 60, now way gone. I dunno about the Sick Head edition but the Skaters' version comes with an insert "explaining" both pieces, at which point I have to question if James and Spencer really believe these insane, impenetrable blurbs they sometimes have been known to pen (see: "Diminishing Shrine Recycles") or if they're just bullshitting us. Or if I'm just too much of a dunderhead to dig for any semblance of a meaning, which is altogether very possible. Anyway, I didn't come here to read, I came here to listen! "Dripping Avenues" is new to my ears and I was wondering how it could stack up to the already-great-in-my-books "Wind Drapeing Incense" and it does stack up, it stacks up excellently. It's classic Skaters for a near 20 minutes: supremely muddled hand drumming (recorded somewhere between the 5th and 6th stages of hell) is the anchoring point around which a swirl of blacks and greys implode and interlock, with the pair's vocal chords serving as the central node of all the turbulent activity. The slimy distortion and fug goes down like a black tar shooter and all the while Ferraro and Clark maintain the absolute peak point of their collaborative prowess, making it seem like a slice to control something so amorphous (not to mention having it sound so good). Back when I reviewed the "California" box I was effusive in my praise for "Wind Drapeing Incense", and I remember thinking at the time that it possibly represented a huge leap forward for them. None of that's changed. The track still resonates with its multiple acts, each one built around a unique (and nearly identifiable!) sound source - pulsing ritual drumming, skewed Bollywood keyboard melodies, ghostly gospel chanting, and others that float through and catch your ear for only a second. It's the closest the Skaters have ever come to making a pop record, and that should be all the reason you need to hear it. If you're into the Skaters, skipped the "California" box, and missed the original Sick Head issue, holy balls do you need this. Even if you own the "California" box it's worth owning again on cassette format. Maybe. High high high recommendations to both.
Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above albums (iMeem is back in action...for now)