Review: Skee Mask – Compro
Skee Mask A.K.A Brian Muller emerges from the cold, as the album artwork rather literally suggests, to offer his new second full-length album Compro off label, Ilian Tape. Formerly known as SCNTST, Skee Mask offers a new, expansive take on what Techno’s future development may look like and a test of its boundaries and audiences’ expectations. Brandishing a sonic weaponry of high calibre and bending the rules of techno’s ridged infrastructure, Muller models progressivist innovators such as Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada yet remaining faithful to some of techno’s more traditional tropes.
This hybrid of electronic conventions is a rarity, an elusive ideal that has abdicated many of Muller’s predecessors from hallowed positions of acclaim. Techno rather unfortunately; in my view incorrectly, can have a rep for being one fry short of a Happy Meal in regards to its scope and range. This antiquated point of view has been humbly chipped away at since the mid 90’s but Muller’s more recent output and especially Compro could finally see an expulsion of this perspective. Furthermore, it could act as a catalyst for an elaboration of Techno’s sonic arsenal and its coalescing into non-traditional creative spaces.
To give you an inkling of the range of this record look no further than the opening track Cerroverb. In essence an interlude, comparable to early noughties Boards of Canada, Cerroverb harnesses the power of floaty ambience, stark hazy drones and swells. This is transcendental meditation, this ruminates, its components are offered sparingly, this culminates in a very introspective, loose form, atmospheric line, no harsh 200 BPM drum breaks, no scything hats or cutting snares; at least not yet.
Compro doesn’t just use ambience as juxtaposition it assembles carefully, piece by piece, gradually gaining momentum, eventually forming something impactful. Played in its entirety Compro is patient, mature and isn’t trigger happy. In fact, Muller doesn’t explicitly lean one the parameters of Techno until 50 Euro to Break Boost which is roughly fifteen minutes into the album! Transitioning from this point the album doesn’t blow hot until it patiently develops its themes, gradually mushrooming into hulking Smack my Bitch up subs, cutting snares and techno weightiness of Dial 274. Only to ebb back into the warmth of ambience to regenerate and come again with the considerable Muk Fm and Kozmic Flush, later in the album.
The notably absorbing, lush haziness of Vli encapsulates the strength of this tight musical output. A drumless, explorative interlude full of warm, tranquil introspection. Vli utilises soft, repetitive melodic lines, intertwining, swelling and simmering; a moment of joyous release before we gather momentum yet again as Muller veers off in another musical direction.
Making new from old is an age-old ritual within electronic music and this axiom Compro evidences and celebrates. Through hazy, spectral textural outpouring, expertly tempered with the zippy, crisp, relentlessness of chopped-up amen breaks, Compro is an exploration and reimagining of the idiom. Muller has made a clearing all of his own, his sonic habitat is refreshing and full of vitality yet still echoes his trailblazing predecessors, striking a coveted balance between old and new, letting the future emerge from the past.