Skullduggery – You Are Here. [Nowhere]

Skullduggery - You Are Here. [Nowhere]

Pro CD-R, Trozoc, 2009
www.myspace.com/skullduggery

It’s three years now since I first came across this artist, on the Glitch Mode compilation “H0rd3z Ov Thee El33t!”, as one of many artists that I first heard there that I thought ‘hmm, must check them out again sometime’. Some vanished, others I went and bought the albums. This was one, I’ll admit, that I thought had vanished until this album appeared. The track on said compilation – “A Violent Reaction” – was great, and at the time I was almost willing an album to come.
So, the album is here, how is it? There are no mellow intros here, for a start – from the very first second a complex, wheezing polyrhythm bursts out of the speakers at you (if you have it on loud it’s a hell of a shock, too), which works well as an intriguing pointer of what is to come. By the time the second track, “Everything”, comes around, things are much slowed down, with a languid, near-buried vocal to match the slow-pace perfectly. “Grotamh” takes us into IDM territory, with irregular rhythm, phasing effects and more vocals. These are perhaps the big surprise here, as most electronic music of this complexity (and, frankly, this far out in the left-field, not in a million million years could this ever be called mainstream) shuns vocals as much as possible.
There is only one group of artists in industrial who, over the course of their career, have experimented this much and got away with it (indeed pushing the genre into realms most never even expected) and that would be Skinny Puppy. Like other albums I’ve heard in recent years, it’s difficult to escape their spectre when creating tracks crackling with this many ideas, and the first overt Skinny Puppy-feel comes on in “In-Security”, with sampled guitars, drawled, treated vocals and punchier beats bubbling in a veritable soup of effects. An ace track, though, influences or not.
Remarkably, it gets better, too, with the (very, very) dark lullaby of “Angel”, with its vocals that sound like they are recited right next to your ear thanks to clever mixing, and the sparse, pretty electronics never intrude too much. The calm is shattered by the drum’n’bass attack of “Religion = War”, a seemingly angry tirade at those who use religion as an excuse for war. An old subject, yes, but hardly one without enough in the way of sources to provide a fresh spin on it, as it does here. The whispered vocals are really creepy, though.
“Calamity” isn’t especially notable, but “Relapse” certainly is. A fast-paced, techno attack, it is another curveball in an album seemingly stuffed with them. “My Rightful Place” is about as ‘normal’ as things are going to get here, while “Jacobs Ladder” is four minutes of pure spite. “Sacrilege” weirded me out, but not as much as the straight-up synthpop of “Truth”. The closing title track, with its cut-up radio samples and graceful piano brings to mind walking down a city street and catching innumerable snippets of conversation, but never engaging in any of them. Which perhaps sums up the title nicely.
To do this album justice (its scope is vast, and to cover all the musical styles touched upon here would probably take most of my word limit on their own) it’s an album you don’t need to be reading about, other than to be recommended it. It’s not going to be for everyone, but it’s really worth giving a try – you will either find it an engaging curiousity or a massively rewarding and challenging listen. I’m in the latter camp, and more than a few listens in I’m still finding bits I missed.

[9/10]

— Adam Williams