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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Skeletonbreath

louise

Review by Bill Knispel

What do you get when you mix bass playing with occasional Zeuhl-ish tone, wildly expressive violin playing, and punk drumming? If you fueled the whole mixture with exceedingly large amounts of volume, and seasoned liberally with beer, and were very, very lucky, you just might come up with Rochester NY’s Skeletonbreath. Skeletonbreath is a trio that fuses jazz, prog, punk, and klezmer style music to create something just slightly lighter than a band like Alamaailman Vasarat (perhaps the only possible comparison in terms of genre and general sound). Variously described as “Halloween party music” (the band’s description) and “Transylvanian surf music” (Wikipedia), the band has built a devoted following on the basis of their energetic, and above all loud, live show. As a completely instrumental band, and a trio at that, Skeletonbreath could easily fall into a trap of offering up an album filled with a dozen same-sounding tracks. While they do have an intentionally limited sonic palate to work from, the results are enjoyable and interesting. The band tries hard to offer up something different with each track, whether it’s a weird middle section with melodic percussion, or plucked violin, or slide bass. The music is energetic and fun, and nearly compels the listener to get up, jumping and dancing to it. While louise is a debut release, it doesn’t really sound like it, instead feeling more like the work of a seasoned group of veteran musicians confident in their ability to deliver. A very brief 39 minutes long, the album nonetheless feels just right, leaving the listener wanting more.

Track by Track Review
surf music (pt 1)
This track opens the album in a deceptive manner, with quiet bass and violin, before exploding in a flurry of punkish energy. Samuel Doob’s drumming is incredibly propulsive, and Robert Pycior and Andrew Platt get some nice synchronized playing in. A weird middle section with a seriously slowed beat and children’s toy-like percussion adds some seasoning.
do the lazy rabbit
A funky bass ostinato and choppy violin open this upbeat piece, with slightly more restrained drumming and a spiraling violin line. The song again shifts gears, the bass becoming distorted and evil sounding, Pycior’s violin melody creating one of several hummable hooks on louise.
fever dream waltz
Andrew Platt’s bass playing cuts through the simple mix here, deep, warm and round, with just enough fuzz to bite. Robert Pycior’s violin playing is at it’s gypsy-esque best.
harvestmen
This song opens quietly with slow violin before building into a mid-tempo piece with occasional flourishes of quicker double time drums and choked high hat. Samuel Doob rides his cymbals for all they’re worth, while Pycior shows off some fluidly smooth playing on his electric violin.
plastic motor fight
A choked bass line, played high up on the strings, and staccato violin/drum work are the first things this song offers up. A short section of plucked violin showcases another bit of what Pycior adds to the band’s sound.
circus train
Samuel Doob opens this track with more children’s toy-like percussion, while Pycior squeezes out a slow, emotional violin line. The song evolves from Pycior’s melody, adding in more fuzzed bass and an insistent rhythm.
louise
The title track offers up one of the catchiest melodic hooks committed to album. Slide bass from Platt adds an otherworldly element to the music. One of the highlights in this piece is a section where Platt and Doob drop back in the mix, building tension quietly while Pycior’s violin unleashes short bursts of sound before a purely punk/metal explosion is released.
mausoleum
Restrained drumming, more choked hi-hat, drumming on snare rims...Doob adds a little flash while keeping the beat squarely on the 2 and 4 here. Platt’s bass playing is solid as usual, getting a nice, albeit brief solo.
ashtabula
Opening with plucked harmonics, sweet violin, and quiet cymbals, “ashtabula” is the closest thing to a ballad louise has to offer. Brief flashes of darkness bubble to the top courtesy of Platt’s bass playing, and suddenly...the song explodes, a chorus of yells, and we’re back in rock territory, with a sound less like and more like 1973-1974 King Crimson. The song ends with a suddenness that is unsettling, and yet oddly just right.
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