Skee Mask – “Pool” (ILIAN TAPE) [May 7, 2021]

Pool is an unfamiliar planet. You crash land into a territory that is at once organic and otherworldly. By listening, you are tasked with deciphering into familiar syntax something beautifully novel and alien. It is a coded message from another place.

Something very strange has landed in a field not far from you. It’s a sonic impulse, a Codex Seraphinianus from another sector of the known universe. Constructed of some complex and often counterintuitive alloy, it delivers the kind of sonic richness that is tantamount to actual travel. You’re drawn in by little liquid gasps of 303 that eventually find the surface of the music through the magisterial, shining pads and skittering, constantly evolving percussion. The flanging ionic discharge of a hypersonic reactor core makes an odd but satisfying bedfellow with chilled-out piano lounge chords in the kind of hypostatic union only Skee Mask could produce. The reactor sounds and pads re-emerge, chopped and pulverized, with more driving kick patterns; and it’s interesting to note how he uses the percussive elements to recontextualize the raw sound materials into a totally different atmosphere. Suddenly you are the Amy Adams character in Arrival, trying through whorls of nonorganic fog to decipher into familiar syntax something beautifully novel and alien.

The detuned ring of bells engineered somehow to clang out underwater usher in a flickering heavenly strobe riding an LFO that varies somewhere between melancholic and sublime. It’s as if the scout vehicle has taken off for an alien world with you inside, in hyper-stasis.

Dirty broken garage kicks in out of nowhere, shocking you out of a reverie you had not even realized that you’d fallen into, the seemingly familiar sounds once again made new in the non-carbon galaxy you have woken up in. It’s a million years later and the ship has crashed. You are not alone in this strange land. Startling saturated beams of hostile energy emerge almost telepathically. Beats land when and where they please like unpredictable pistons firing off filtered hi hats and chopped up, single consonant utterances. There is too much beauty all around you to focus only on survival. This world is unfamiliar but it is lush and fertile.

You wash up on a glowing shore, you’ve drifted away again. You were carried there by a loving yet frightening creature. Scanning through all available channels on a waterlogged handheld radio, you catch brief moments of something that might be voices, but could also just be static following some strange non-Gaussian distribution. You’re listening to “Ozone” and “Rio Dub,” two ambient moments of respite like beds of downy moss or non invertebrate creatures drifting aimlessly and endlessly in the ocean. You’re climbing a hill through dense tropical cloud cover, the signals are coming in more clearly now as blue pierces the vail, warm glowing bells disguising the absolute intensity that the percussion is morphing into somewhere down below, the exact visible line in the trees where drum and bass deepens into jungle, and deepens again into something unknown. The winged locomotion and sound exhaust of unseen mating rituals make up the nocturne.

Finally, the familiar. Filtered but human voices. Nearly recognizable guitar and piano arrangements stretching towards you, violet-shifted in some inverse Doppler effect as you speed toward them. A sense of nostalgia returns, as though the music is woven from hidden memories; a lonely night at a jazz club or an ex-boyfriend’s dorm room a long time ago. The journey is complete.

-Winston Mann

Link: Bandcamp

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