If you’re looking for a one-word description of local instrumental group Skeetones’ unique sound — well, good luck with that. “Electronic” is probably the closest you’d come, but even that’s just a tiny clue as to what’s in store on the band’s incredibly diverse, debut full-length release, Retrospektive.
The five-piece band brings an analog vibe to the digital music realm, giving the tracks on Retrospektive an organic sensibility. That’s something that can be said for a lot of bands that have wrestled the coldness out of Electronic music over the years — from Krautrock to New Order to LCD Soundsystem — but Skeetones belong more to the current crop of artists finding success in “Jam band” circles. The “Livetronica” (as it’s sometimes called) concept employs a base of electronic sounds, but instead of overly pre-programmed “backing tracks” and simple button-pushing, bands like Skeetones keep the machines in check by controlling each one to the point where they can improvise with them. As the band’s bio says, the flexibility allows the group to perform “on-the-fly remixes” and the set-up promises that you’ll never hear a song performed exactly the same way from one live show to the next.
Besides the prevalent electronics, another unifying factor on Retrospektive is the hypnotic quality of every one of the album’s 11 tracks.
Had Pink Floyd been birthed in the heyday of raves and Techno, they might have sounded a lot like the Skeetones. But that’s about it when it comes to exact descriptors.
The album opens on a glitchy, Dub Step note with “1100,” with its punchy rhythm and bass and Moog-y squiggles dancing with more traditional organ sounds. The synth lines briefly “quote” the theme from The Godfather on the track, which draws attention to the Jazz element of the ’Tones’ approach, not only in the way they drop in a variation on a popular melody but also in the way the instruments work off of each other. (Besides Cole Brokamp and Taylor Magnarini’s synths and electronics, there’s lots of solid, expressive guitar work from Mike Lees and tight but lively and evocative rhythms from bassist David Sweitzer and drummer Robby Brokamp).
From there, Retrospektive’s odyssey takes listeners from the Middle Eastern sitar sounds and groove of “Techtonics” and the smoky futuristic Blues club spirit of “Stalagtight” to the airy ’80s vibe of “Womped” (with string sounds and movements that recall The Cure), the Depeche Mode-remixed-by-Dr.-Dre-and-Phish pulse of the title track and “Victory,” which blends blanketing atmospherics, spoken samples and a variety of poking synths over an entrancing, David Gilmour-like guitar riff.
So call them Jamtronica. Call them Live Trance. Call them ElectrorockternativeimprovworldjazzIDM, if you want. Like the music itself, there really are no words. But if you enjoy the way modern artists continue to tinker with the perceived limitations of Electronic music, you might just end up calling Skeetones your new favorite band.
The group wraps up its current regional tour to promote Retrospektive with a show Saturday at The Mad Frog in Corryville featuring a special appearance by Freekbass. Hard copies of Retrospektive will be available at live shows; the album download hits all major online music retailers Sunday. (skeetones.com)
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