Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Skjølbrot - Maersk

Skjølbrot is Daniel Bennett, sometime guitarist of the inflammatory rock band Hunting Lodge. His debut solo album Maersk is a more contemplative affair, evoking a horror far removed from the slapstick violence of Energy Czar.

The opening track, Rue Victor Masse to Gare d'Austerlitz, brings to mind a valedictory stroll through the streets of a dying city. Its mournful piano chords toll amid a gathering storm of demented church bells and melting machinery. Migrated is an exercise in pure tension, as massed bird calls ring out over ominous drones and rumbles of bass. Both pieces suggest that it's time to get out fast.

The most conventionally beautiful two minutes are provided by I Am Better Now - a sanctuary of soft, wordless vocals and meditative ambience. It's a teasing intake of breath before the jumpy, Sci-Fi terror of Shipbreaking and morbidly wasted Idle Fleet. The album's highlight is the 8-minute Ballad of Windfarming, a rousing din of Velvets-style cacophony and mutant folksong. It might be a tribute to the techno-pastoral future, or the soundtrack to a Maoist propaganda reel, or possibly both.

Such uncertainty is immediately laid waste by the segue into Emma, a sort of purification by burning. It's the catastrophe that's been hinted at throughout, and when it comes it's a relief. Here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. Return to track 1.

No doubt Skjølbrot's music will please Wire-reading aficionados of that sort of thing, but it's also humane enough for lovers of thoughtful electronica - sharing ground with Global Communication, Burial, and Ben Frost. You won't hear another record like this in 2010, but it's not an exercise in clammy-pawed experimentation. Maersk is recognisably a product of the urban environment, circa now.

Blood Red Sounds rating 9/10

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