What is going on here? On their new record Apparition, the Pittsburgh group Skeletonized sound marvelously unhinged. Their music features a guitar, drums, a saxophone, and plenty of samples — and this album feels like a live look at these instruments getting thrown into a blender. Structurally speaking, the band take a free jazz approach, but their music frequently sounds just stunningly intense.
The music starts on a rather frantic note — atop a thicket of blistering, sweltering noise, Skeletonized present a startlingly soulful saxophone rhythm, which flows throughout the track. The saxophone rhythm feels richly melodramatic, like some kind of jazzily operatic performance, and this feeling continues as drum blasts and riff barrages pulsate throughout the opener. The whole slab of sound carries a rather heavy weight, albeit not in the perhaps more traditional sense of a guitar riff that feels physically formidable. Here, the music feels like a psychological lead brick, and along the edges of the brick, as its weight sinks in, neon-colored sparks shoot in all directions.
Finding the richly poignant rhythms that Skeletonized perform within their electrified, chaotic cacophony feels refreshingly startling, like finally finding the object of a long and arduous search. The music feels like a sonic eureka moment.
Track two, called “Ultimate Slime God,” introduces some more overtly jazzy textures into the mix. The entire production builds and retracts. The music never loses its formidability, but there’s space to breathe, and this feeling gets pushed even more to the forefront on the immediately subsequent track, “Perish The Thought.” As these gentler moments settle in, the album begins to take on the feel of some kind of back-alley jazz club, since that poignant saxophone never strays from the spotlight, and the rhythms maintain a jagged but jazzy feel — but as the band performs from the stage in this imaginary jazz club, reality begins to slowly but subtly collapse in on itself. The record has the feel of seeing sudden flashes of strangely alluring alternate dimensions dashing across a field of vision.
“He Wore a Human Face” has some surprisingly heavy moments, when — with the saxophone still steaming along! — hard-hitting guitar parts flourish amidst the broader haze, and “Reduced To Ash” also features splashes of heavy riffing. The overall rhythms persistently feel rather abrasively erratic, with a staggered, start-stop vibe in the music, as if tumbling through a dream world. Despite the frequently staggering frenzy of the music, the songs don’t sound oppressive or unconquerable. There’s awesome stuff in here! The songs sound confidently persistent, at least on an overall level, and this confidence infuses the listening experience with a kind of triumph. It’s totally crazy, yes, but Apparition also feels thoroughly invigorating.
Listen to Apparition by Skeletonized below!