Skudge’s rise to prominence in 2010 has been equally startling and exhilarating. On first blush, each of the duo’s releases on their self-titled label consists mostly of straight forward, club-friendly techno that lacks some of the novelty that would afford them essential heft. Spending more time with the records, however, reveals more of the pair’s character in their relatively stripped back productions, allaying some of my wariness over their new found popularity. It’s actually not terribly surprising that audiences and artists have cottoned on to Skudge’s tracks, which are tough, do not rely too heavily on nuance, and are subsequently well suited for being piped through a substantial PA. But can their generally spare outlay of elements earn the same level of admiration when heard up close? On Overture/Mirage, the duo’s fourth single, the answer is increasingly yes.
Without too many moving parts to arrange, Skudge concentrate on making each one count. The resonating, two chord melody at the core of “Overture” mutates and intensifies just enough to keep listeners wondering what the next bar will sound like. Just as crucial is the battery of slate gray percussion, like the jacking claps on 3 and 4, and blunted bass notes that add tone color as well as ballast. It’s a sound that seems keenly attuned to old school production techniques without simply repeating their results. “Mirage” feels more slender and swinging than its flipside, working its muted tonal palate between dusty shakers and pinging hi-hats with all the dexterity and playfulness of a house track by the Mountain People. Perhaps this single isn’t as “essential” as something by Mika Vaino or the like, but it does offer evidence that Skudge are evolving in a positive direction and more than earns its space in DJs’ record bags, if not untold torrents of hype.