Various Artists, Skum One


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There are weird, totally unintuitive projects, like Roman Flügel and Ricardo Villalobos’ RiRom collaboration, and then there are projects like Skum — projects that make an insane amount of sense, that is. The sort of things that make you wonder why they didn’t happen earlier. Well, the latest lightbulb comes from the desks of Skudge and Kontra-Musik, who’ve teamed up to create a new quasi-label. And yes, it makes insane sense. Both camps have made big names for themselves pushing techno of deadly seriousness, often with an industrial bent. Plus, they can all speak Swedish. This first record — it’s hard to know how long the endeavor might last — draws together two artists from each label, with predictably strong results.

Various Artists, excerpts from Skum One

“Absurd” is classic Skudge: repetitive and bland to detractors, perfectly hypnotic to fans. Its strobing, two-note hook and equally simplistic percussion are so tightly meshed as to feel like a single sequence. Whether you love it or hate it, you’ll probably have to admit that no one does this stuff better than Skudge. Then again, it sounds much the same as everything they’ve produced in the past three years. The opposite can be said for MRSK’s cut. Though he’s hasn’t been around long, Martin Skogehall has shown a tendency for mixing it up. “Less Youth” (Culture Mix) is suitably leftfield, skirting Skudge’s mature sound in favor of a gaudy tribute to rave, complete with a cartwheeling synth lead and whistles. It feels a bit rough around the edges, but that’s half the fun. Just listen for the clumsy drop at the halfway point.

On the B-side, Kontra-Musik’s recruits shoot for a more abrasive sound, with more interesting results. Frak’s “Deeper Thoughts” is a sterling example of the trio’s charms. It has the same twee melodic simplicity as Kraftwerk’s best records, but somehow stays as rude as any acid-house record. Also: I don’t know what hardware Frak are using, but their individual sounds have a certain boldness and tangibility that no one else seems able to replicate. TM404’s effort is equally sweet, channeling serious Tin Man vibes with its melancholic licks of acid. Like the pieces of Tin Man, it could easily feel basic or uninspiring, but for its classy arrangement and expertly selected percussion.

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