Skee Mask – Shred
Techno has a bit of a reputation for impermanence – ephemeral labels releasing records by even more ephemeral aliases. Take Ilian Tape, for example, – the German record label was founded in 2007 but released its second LP, Shred by Skee Mask, only two weeks ago on February 1. Little is known about the band, besides being from Munich and having released two EPs on Ilian Tape in the past two years. The lack of an image to latch onto can make it difficult to distinguish bands who tend to appear only rarely; nevertheless, a distinct techno sound is there. While Skee Mask doesn’t innovate or push the boundaries of techno, Shred is a well-produced album with great sequencing.
The album opens with “Everest,” an ambient track with gently pulsating and atmospheric synths. The track sets the mood for the album: certainly nocturnal and a bit cold, but not unwelcoming. For the most part, the rest of Shred bears the usual markers that techno producers have used for the past 25 years: cold, mechanistic synthesized drums, a lack of vocals, and relatively sparse, repetitive synthesizer arrangements.
Starting with “HAL Conv.,” the album progressively picks up steam. The track is still fairly subdued, with its quiet, skittery beats perhaps more suited for home listening than for dancing. But the misleadingly named “Autotuned” begins a series of sounds where each is more hard-hitting and danceable than the previous one, culminating in the sixth track, “Melczop 2.” This track’s synth arrangements are still fairly atmospheric, even delicate. However, the breakbeat-inspired drums in the sound are much more aggressive than the preceding tracks. “Melczop 2” is an excellent payoff for all the buildup of the first five tracks, and a definite highlight.
The next few tunes represent something of a comedown; the drums hit a bit less hard and the songs are less immediate. However, “Japan Air” and “Shady Jibbin’” feature fairly intricate and complex drum patterns, which makes them stand out among other sounds. The final track, “South Mathematikz,” is an excellent closer, subdued, and influenced by breakbeat similar to that heard in “Melczop 2.” While Skee Mask doesn’t stray far from techno’s usual characteristics, there’s a lot of artistry and subtlety in Shred. The album creates a nice experience not unlike a good DJ set.
Moss Lime – Zoo du Québec
Zoo du Québec is the third and most recent album by Moss Lime, a relatively new Montreal band that has grown in popularity since it appeared in 2014. Released on December 8, it features repetitive vocals with rhythmic undertones. The band’s music is best categorized as psychedelic rock. Moss Lime’s own interpretation of the genre has a unique indie feel, which adds character and authenticity to the album, making it snappy and identifiable right away. However, despite its creative direction, Zoo du Québec is lacking in quality of execution, as some instruments do not contribute to the band’s blend of sound equally, but, rather, leave it to the vocals and minimalist beat to do the trick.
Most of the songs in Zoo du Québec start with a catchy guitar introduction, which does an excellent job drawing the audience into the musical vibe. One of the songs, “Bottom Feeder,” has an especially luring mysteriousness to it, growing into an assertive beat and intense lyrics: “Couldn’t be more depressed / I think we’re both repressed.” The sound’s energetic pulse creates a feeling of self-assertiveness, but the guitar’s piercing chords splash ambiguity onto the melody, best exemplified by “Rock Paper.”
Quite often, however, the flow of the sound falters when more instruments are introduced. The band attempts to add depth to its music with multiple layers and syncopated patterns, but the final product ends up sounding messy and out of sync. The drums are especially lacking in consistency and clarity. Some rhythms have the potential to be quite good, but are muddled by the lack of coordination.
Nevertheless, Zoo du Québec continues the psychedelic rock staple of repetitive beats and vocals. The recurring vocals’ unconventionality is particularly good at capturing that kaleidoscopic sound known to fans. However, the pattern’s inconsistent rhythm is a hindrance to audience engagement with the tune, which leaves most songs sounding stale.
Despite some shortcomings in execution, Moss Lime’s psychedelic mix of sounds has a lot of potential. Zoo du Québec is a unique blend of upbeat minimalism with a fusion of playful guitar and intense blunt vocals. Fans of minimalist psychedelic tunes will have no trouble distinguishing the album among others.