Hello Skinny - Hello Skinny - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #79

Weird scenes inside the musical goldmine were brought to life this November when avid Residents fan and “out there” musician Tom Skinner released this scintillating debut. Skinner: drummer, multi-instrumentalist and avant-garde composer clamoured into the airways in the vein of a true auteur, composing and producing the album (Save for The Residents cover that so names the band and album) as well as playing most of the instruments. This kind of creative dictatorship paved the way for, in my opinion, one of last year’s most interesting debut albums, blending elements of dub, trip hop, electronica and jazz into a witches brew of intrigue and menace.

Electronic blips and mountains of echo are our guides on this descent down the metaphorical Nung River. Loose, almost tribal drumming and throbbing, dubby cacophony are our preludes. Soon, the title track, Residents Hello Skinny, is given the same dusty treatment, with its distant, spectral clarinets and haze-inducing bassline rendering the track an exercise in trippy paranoia. Its added coda of industrial percussion and Shabaka Hutchings’ wailing saxophone makes an already devilish track that little bit more menacing. If Skinner has his own style and direction – which he certainly does – Hello Skinny is the perfect point of reference, a good example on which to base his work, expand on it and truly come into something of his own with these added textures and ideas.

Hello Skinner
I have found often that ambient, textural exercises often based around the attempted evocation of a certain mood (Brian Eno) tend to fall short. Their theme, while perhaps admirable, can’t sustain for a whole record, and by the end you’re left with a confounded muddle of soundscapes that go nowhere. However, Skinner cleverly escapes this trap on Hello Skinny with the addition of several unusual elements (saxophone and clarinet, on such dubby, electronic music, I personally find interesting) and some pieces largely free from abstraction. Take for example Foot Tap, a short composition based around an acoustic guitar riff, is more bucolic and uplifting, yet not without the lingering, ominous presence of throbbing bass. While nevertheless a digestif after the previous aural feast, it offers a change of pace without feeling like a change of theme. Bookended by two sinister, drum-led exercises in trippy meditation, Crush and Bump, the piece never feels overshadowed. Similarly, the remainder of the album emerges from classification to become something entirely unique, combining melancholy guitar solos, slow, determined drumming, ethereal chanting and beatless ambience.

Hello Skinny is a satisfying concoction, one that surprises and commands attention. Its execution is flawless and its thematic unity sound. At 37 minutes  and with a mixture of disparate sounds, I feel it’s a timid introduction to someone who promises a lot more and will likely deliver just that in the upcoming years. Here’s the website: Keep an eye out of this one. Why not try out the free EP first?

Words – Adam.

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