this review originally appeared in Thaumaturgy, a blog dedicated to new experimental and psychedelic music
Palm Shaper, by the Skaters
Yeah, I know: The Skaters. Sounds like they should be playing 3rd stage on this year's Warped tour, doesn't it? Don't be fooled. Despite the dubious moniker, these noise monkeys are the vanguard of "the New Electrical Sublime" (thanks, Jeremy). Combining the lysergic grit of early Butthole Surfers, the ear-shredding power electronics of Whitehouse and other proto-Industrial pioneers, and the quaint intensity of Inuit shamanic rituals caught on wax cylinder circa 1930, the Skaters sound like no one else. And oh baby, what a sound it is!
Though perhaps not apparent to the novice listener, those familiar with the Skaters' CV will immediately recognize that Palm Shaper holds the distinction of being their cleanest recording thus far. While previous efforts marinated in lo-fi hiss and hum, the relative clarity of this release allows the distinct sounds of chimes, drum, autoharp, voices, electronics, mic feedback, and Lord-knows-what-else to echo and collide in a manner that elevates their sound to new levels of claustrophobic extroversion. Whittled down to the duo of James Ferraro and Spencer Clark for this effort, at 3 tracks in 35 minutes Palm Shaper is the purest and most concise distillation of the Skaters' oeuvre to date.
"Mount Amongst Mountains" opens the show, 14 minutes and 44 seconds of the quintessential Skaters sound: keening vocals, embedded drones, electronic whine, intermittent tattoos of one-handed percussion, slashes of autoharp, and other unidentifiable voices that work in tandem to produce synesthesiac arrest. Track 2, "here a scarf flies, there an excited call is heard" is a disturbing pseudo-ethnographic foray straight out of Lovecraft. Are the Skaters worshippers of the Fungi from Yuggoth? At the very least they ingested it before recording this track, where drums, autoharp, and other instruments play out a pageant of possession over a sickly tapestry of screams and chants. 'Muddflaps Flagellations' closes the album, in which some twisted imam gibbers feverishly while riding a crushing avalanche of feedback and raw electricity. Once you've heard Palm Shaper, you'll be compelled to go write your own Necronomicon.
God bless the Skaters and all who drool upon them.
On 267 Lattajjaa.