Skee Mask – Dial 274
Skee Mask’s 2014 debut release ‘Serum’ was a statement. Distributed by Ilian Tape Records, the EP featured a post-apocalyptic fusion of breakbeat with dub techno. The resulting sound was a “spacey, angular techno…that is stylistically bold“. The face behind the mask is a Bavarian beatmaker Bryan Müller. Taking inspiration from William Basinski, Shed & Autechre his production skills belong to a seasoned veteran. Four years later, the Munich-hailed producer’s latest album ‘Contra‘ is Müller at his vertex. Resident Advisor described the 12-track release as a piece of craft that makes “drums delicately dance..[and] percussion sing“. Bringing a delicate balance between ambient interludes and outright ridiculous set grenades, the project is a riveting listening experience. At its core, ‘Dial 247’ is a techstep track that brings the ferociousness of a thousand sharks being torpedoed by an RPG.
The track’s entrance sends tremors down your spine, as shuddering kick fills the space consigned to oblivion by hollow bells that sounds like they’re taken from 28 Days Later. In his previous releases Skee Mask refused to conform to the pulse of a 4/4 beat. In such, his drum patterns tend to manoeuvre through the electronic soundscapes with the rara avis of Aphex Twin or Lanark Artefax. Here the leniency towards an IDM structure is substituted with a heavy-hitting dosage of breakbeats. They pump the adrenaline of an escapee that’s just climbed over the walls of a psychiatric institute. Manipulating every plugin at hand, the listener hears the percussions being filtered, reversed, chopped and screwed. Stinging saw synth surfaces the waters while an extraterrestrial bangarang mutates its outlandishness. The latter half of the track introduces ambient pads which rather than calming the environment increases calamity levels. ‘Dial 274’ is a total revelation, reshaping “techno and jungle templates, warping them into something altogether more refreshing“. The strongest influence, however, is the 1990s drum and bass subgenre of Techstep. Its releases such as Dillinja’s ‘Tronik Funk‘ or Bad Company’s ‘Planet Dust’ share the same dark, sci-fi mood that is fitting for soundtrack to a movie like The Matrix. Likewise, an obvious parallel to the dystopian outer space created by B12 can be drawn. RA’s top 50 tracks of 2018 list featured cuts like Beta Librae’s ‘Problem Solving Program’ or Pangaea’s ‘Bone Sucka‘, hinting at another revival of unorthodox drum patters that are supported by a dense sub-bass. If this carries over into 2019, Skee Mask is sure to be one of its leading trailblazers.
Müller’s recent headlining of the DIY venue The Cause, was an ideal settingto exhibit his sound. Previously a car mechanic’s depot, the venue is a ravers’ haven boasting a “no-frills industrial fittings [and a custom-built Core sound-system” according to Red Bull. As a certain Instagram video demonstrated, Skee’s set that night brought an consuming energy reflective of his production. ‘Dial 247′ is the prototype, combining Stanton Warriors’ breakdowns with the eccentricity of Amon Tobin. The savagery of Slipmatt’s ‘Breaking Free’ collides with the chirrs of Dopplereffekt. The end result is a techstep pandemonium of maelstrom.