Review Summary: Skee Mask's spare tapes vs. the Russian government

Skee Mask landed one of 2021’s greatest highlights with his IDM-techno-breakbeat-etc. colossus Pool, and now anyone done digesting that record’s seemingly unending spread of quality tracks can line up for fresh helpings thanks to A and its spontaneous release. Just don’t be tempted to treat it as a true follow-up: where Pool was practically woven together as its own immersive pocket of reality, A scans as a concerted non-statement, from its slapdash pacing to its deadpan anti-title. This is understandable given that it’s an album-shaped compilation of unreleased tracks, but there’s no need to dismiss it as such from the outset: there’s a generous share of strong material here, enough to warrant a couple of holistic dives even if the listener’s scope will likely end up as compilatory as the album’s (mini-mixes of highlight tracks = yes encouraged).

Sequencing discontinuity aside, there are recurrent themes here: Skee Mask’s twinkling synthlines and sparse soundscapes play a lesser role than on Pool and 2018’s Compro, by which I think it’s also fair to say that they’re simply less developed. These tracks are mostly beat-heavy and heavy in their beats, though the early highlight “DIY Letterbox” is a notable exception in its distantly Boards of Canada-esque collage of ambient glitches, skittering IDM percussion and soothing piano flourishes. Immediately setting a more representative template, the opener “Driver” is energised and refined in its midtempo breakbeat, its booming four-to-the-floor kick teasing a dual identity as an upbeat techno song in a classic exhibition of Skee Mask’s genre fluidity. It’s cohesive and clever as an ice-breaker, but the following “Korarchaeota” proves less successful in its anxious glitch and pounding beats: Skee Mask’s dry choice of snare tone is somewhat grating here, for which we’ll blame the album’s unmastered release, but the track smacks more widely of a promising stylistic exercise that never ties itself round into a satisfying compositional form or evocative atmosphere in the way Skee Mask usually has such a subtle knack for. The same goes for “BFIB”, “At Play” and the meandering “Birdland Skit”: all ostensibly well-constructed but both overly circuitous and a smidge short of flavour. “Plastix A.W.” almost falls into the same camp, but there’s something tactile and kinetic to its beat that suggests a viable dance banger. The album highlight arrives midway in the one-two combo of “Msynth Patterns”, a mesh of squelching bass and restless breaks that brings to mind the most edge-of-your-seat cuts from Syro-era Aphex Twin, and “Msynth Dub”, an eight-minute breakbeat gauntlet that warps through innumerable contours and collisions in a deft foil to even the most enfeebled attention spans. These two tracks carry a distinctly harder edge to Compro or Pool’s palettes, but while their exclusion seems reasonable, any casual Skee Mask enthusiasts can count them as essentials.

Overall, A is a delightful surprise but confusing to distil into a comprehensive impression: its tracks are individually strong enough to rise above the means-to-the-end implications of their abrupt release, originally pitched to drum up humanitarian aid for the Ukraine war, but there’s a nagging sense of something piecemeal and uneven that creeps out of its sequencing and ruptures the illusion that this could have amounted to something more than a grab-bag of outtakes and spare ends. Perhaps this is an unfair criticism for something that was never envisioned as such, but it’s testament to Skee Mask’s calibre that his apparent bottom drawer can almost posit a wholesale album in its own right.




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user ratings (10)
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2022


60896 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

rym has this listed as an album / sput thinks it's a comp / skee mask likely does not give a shit. he is the comp-pro.

weird album to review all things considered but figured it deserved a breakdown regardless

now someone else review Pool plz

dedex
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2022


12788 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

nice one man



now someone else review Pool plz [∞] or I'll just take my year-end blurb and nobody wants that

CottonSalad
March 19th 2022


2467 Comments


His name is Bryan

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
March 19th 2022


4065 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"he is the comp-pro."



nice



agree w/ review





LeddSledd
March 19th 2022


7444 Comments


moar merzbient beats 😃😀😄😁😄😃

must hear

brainmelter
Contributing Reviewer
March 19th 2022


8363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ohhhh fuck yea mr. well

brainmelter
Contributing Reviewer
March 19th 2022


8363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the album art changed a little less than a week after release and no more bit about the proceeds going towards a Ukrainian relief organization hmm

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2022


18909 Comments


Skee Mask is a Chad for this.

Also I reviewed Compro so I can review Pool if no one else has?

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2022


60896 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"the album art changed a little less than a week after release and no more bit about the proceeds going towards a Ukrainian relief organization hmm"

oh yikes, so it did - will give this some time to see if New Facts Emerge, but if they don't i'll tweak the rev script a bit. cheers

yolo you can only review pool if it has a 4.2 or higher choose ur fighter

Hyperion1001
Emeritus
March 19th 2022


26287 Comments


still gotta check this. good review brother.

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2022


26313 Comments


shit should i have checked Pool

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2022


18909 Comments


Johnny I will give it a 4.5 but I will also call it life-affirming just for you

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
March 20th 2022


4065 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

skee mask posted about changing donation/ukraine benefit status of the release earlier this month



https://twitter.com/sk33mask/status/1500920383024865291

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2022


60896 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

cheers hyp! and cheers norma, big helpful. revised the body a lil bit, lovely to see such a girthy figure

"shit should i have checked Pool"

yes it was better than 99% of everything you (and tbh i) heard last yr

"will also call it life-affirming just for you"

yes yes righteous greenfields pictures yes



neekafat
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2022


26313 Comments


I listened to the first three tracks and it was honestly 3.5-4 material should I continue?

Avagantamos
March 20th 2022


8964 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

3.5-4 are the ratings I give to very good albums so yeah

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2022


60896 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

album kicks into gear on CZ3000 Dub and ur dumb so yh

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
March 20th 2022


4065 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Neeka is sophisticated and only interested in 4.5 experiences ; )

Avagantamos
March 20th 2022


8964 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

well luckily for him pool is a 4.5

brainmelter
Contributing Reviewer
March 20th 2022


8363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

skee mask posted about changing donation/ukraine benefit status of the release earlier this month


ah ok makes sense I figured it was just a temporary pooling for the fundraisers



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