Skudge, Phantom


Photo by Pablo Valbuena

[Skudge Records]


Buy Vinyl

Swedish duo Skudge traffic in an aerodynamic and occasionally aggressive style of minimal techno. Predominantly concerned with function and restraint, they owe a considerable debt to producers like Robert Hood, creating tracks almost exclusively for the mix-minded listener. Phantom, their full-length debut, does not surrender this style in favor of a subdued home-listening experience. It isn’t so austere as to dissuade the casual listener, but it keeps its focus on the dance floor.

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Like so many techno long-players, Phantom begins with a brief, beatless composition. “Ursa Major” is perhaps an attempt to give the subsequent tracks some context, and in this way its grim, crackly drones are successful. Skudge include three other similar pieces: “Vanisher,” “Blackout,” and “Modular Storm,” and while they work as interludes and a wind-down, respectively, they feel slightly unnecessary, seeming to suggest that the album has a greater narrative than a collection of techno tracks. In the scope of that collection, however, it’s easy to forget about them.

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Phantom is all harnessed, pitch-black grooves, largely devoid of big surprises and all the better for it. The production is raw, but not overly so. Much of its charm is in its repetitive patterns — it’s the sort of stuff you have to dive headlong into, its variation emerging after immersion. The streamlined, mildly jacking “Realtime” balances polished chords with thick, heady bass, and a dramatic synth stab that sits just below the surface. It continually seems on the verge of a grandiose breakdown, and its success relies largely on this maintenance of tension. Elsewhere, “In Between” strings a sparse, fractured bass line along a smoothly shaking rhythmic structure, as an eerie, wavering synth looms in the background.

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The solitary hook on “Eleven” is the sort of chilling alien melody their fellow Swedes Olof Dreijer or Van Rivers would employ, while the coupling of crisp acidic loops with a lone reverberating clap on the lightly swinging “Shivers” is thoroughly hypnotic. Only the dubby title track has been previously released, and it’s possibly the wildest thing here, closing out the album in an intense, chord-driven bustle. Phantom is surprisingly engrossing for an album of inherently tracky material, and Skudge are clearly adept editors, as none of their compositions ever feel overloaded. Stripped, grooving, and distinctly understated, this is not an album bent on changing techno, presenting instead a swank collection wholly for its DJs and dancers.

nic  on April 21, 2011 at 11:32 AM

who is responsible for the image at the top of this post?

littlewhiteearbuds  on April 21, 2011 at 11:33 AM

I wish I knew! I couldn’t figure it out before posting. If anyone knows, feel free to chime in and I’ll credit the artist(s).

aggle  on April 21, 2011 at 1:03 PM

found the album fairly boring
maybe one or two tracks really caught my attention and that’s because they reminded me of hood (- a climax)
maybe i’ll listen again but something’s missing

the remixes of the eps before are great though

eric cloutier  on April 21, 2011 at 2:07 PM
littlewhiteearbuds  on April 21, 2011 at 2:08 PM

Thanks, Eric!

nic  on April 22, 2011 at 4:31 AM

thank you eric

CarlosLabrador  on April 24, 2011 at 4:25 AM

That picture is taken at Matadero, an arts center near my place, here in Madrid!! What you see is (a cleverly photoshopped version) of an amazing room where they usuaslly place the freakiest expositions and installations. The building used to be a slaughterhouse years ago, and I don’t know very well what this eerie huge room was for back in the day… Now they always keep it very dimly lit, and boy does it look like the place where a replicant rave could happen at night!!

Aq  on April 25, 2011 at 6:33 AM

Is this a review of this picture everyone is talking about or the album? Hmm…

Spons  on May 2, 2011 at 2:52 PM

Love this album. It just drones on, no suprises and on this one i don’t want any. for contemplative rainy sundays with spiced tea and green spliffs.

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