Review Summary: Flashes of brilliance accompanied by extended periods of malaise.
Skee Mask is an anonymous producer from Munich, Germany. Like his formerly anonymous contemporary, Burial, his music focuses primarily on evoking a creeping sense of urban darkness, while occasionally letting the sunlight in to construct moments of stunning beauty. He describes himself as influenced by landmark labels such as Warp Records, an inspiration he wears proudly on his sleeve throughout the entirety of his second full-length “Compro”. It’s apparent listening to the record that Skee Mask is a competent producer with a bright future (as evidenced by his 2021 release “Pool”), but his growing pains as a writer are on display throughout this album’s tracklist. “Compro” is a promising but ultimately homogeneous release, an overlong exploration of sound that contains flashes of brilliance accompanied by extended periods of malaise.
When Skee Mask is at his best, he can stand with anybody. This album’s highlights prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt, with early standout “Rev6817” almost feeling like a flex of his songwriting muscles. “Rev” glides effortlessly over some of the album’s subtlest bass and a nostalgic tape hiss, and rides the wave of one of the strongest melodies to emerge from the scene in quite some time. Meanwhile, towards the end of the tracklist, the listener is treated to a run of three songs that can be easily be identified as the album’s apex. Fan favorite “Flyby Vfr” has earned its status for a reason; it frickin’ slaps, dude. This cut has particularly impressive percussion, which is a gold star for a song on an album full of breakbeats. With synths reminiscent of the Blade Runner soundtrack and a noticeably faster tempo, “Flyby” injects some much needed energy and brightness into the record. “Muk FM” and “Kozmic Flush” succeed on the same level, but in different manners; “Muk” begins with a foreboding vocal sample before fully descending into Aphex Twin worship, while “Kozmic Flush” functions as the most optimistic moment on the record, and emerges as a triumph because of it. These tracks show Skee Mask utilizing the full spectrum of sound available to him, whereas many of the lesser tracks here exclusively focus on the low end and push much of the interesting sonic detail to the back of the mix.
Examining this phenomenon further, Many of the darker, creepier pieces on “Compro” could have worked wonderfully had they been fleshed out just a bit further. “Session Add” and “Dial 274” come to mind, two haunting tracks that each save their best moments for last, and load them behind five to six minutes of soporific loops that leave a lot to be desired. Elsewhere, some other songs can’t justify their position on the tracklist at all; “Cerroverb” is a truly baffling choice for an opener, an ambient piece that gathers no momentum and leaves no impression on the listener. Of course, this means it clocks in at about five and a half minutes. “Compro”’s 64-minute runtime is entirely unwarranted, and even some of the standout tracks are a bit overextended. “Rev6817” emerges as the album’s strongest song because it knows when to call it quits, with “Kozmic Flush” coming in at a close second because of how it uses its longer runtime to build a compelling structure, rather than numb the listener’s mind with repetition.
“Compro” has its moments, and those moments are enthralling. Despite an absolute slog of a middle section and a failure to put its best foot forward, it’s an album that clearly illustrates how talented Skee Mask really is, and its shortcomings (namely its bloated length) are easily fixable problems that can be improved upon in the future. The four standouts here are stunning compositions that I would recommend to anybody, so if and when Skee Mask releases a truly magnificent project, I won’t be surprised; I’ll be happy that he finally delivered on his potential.