I feel sometimes like I have more ink in my veins than I do blood. I feel like when I need to write that ink becomes alive and it pushes and struggles, crawling under my skin, begging to be let out. I don’t feel right until it’s done. I have seen other artists who gasp when they recite poetry on stage, like the words are choking them as they claw to hold onto each breath. Art lives within you like a persona roosting in your mind, taking over at (often) inopportune times. I believe that Skin Out from Division Recordings is going to be the LP that defines who the French trio Signs are, or at least what resides within them. I’m going to pick up half of the album because I want you to experience it yourself, so come into my office and lay on the couch while Killer Ebb walks you through this one. The doctor is in.
I’m not sure if “Monkey Shoulder” is music or sound effects from Transformers but it is certainly different in a good way. There’s so much machine talk and revving of power cells that you almost forget this is drum and bass. I feel like I’m in the middle of a conversation between rogue set equipment and I’m only catching bits and pieces of their plot to murder us all. Luckily drum and bass is there to save us and step in as an interpreter, keeping that smooth talking beat and rhythm that we all need. I’m not sure where the monkey shoulder comes in at unless it is the tinny sounds like one of those toy wind-up monkeys you see in those creepy horror films that bashes two cymbals together. Every so often you do hear some cymbals in the background, so maybe the monkey shoulder comes from the sound of the one machine that is the voice of reason, which is off-putting but makes sense considering his experience in every horror film ever. That’s who I’d want on my team - I mean, who suspects a monkey wearing a hat and a vest? They’re like little people!
The title track “Skin Out” is creepy as hell. It seriously sounds like a warped jack-in-the-box winding up and down while someone shakes maracas in the background. The bass drums are barely there in the beginning, keeping that signature drum and base heartbeat sound, but it’s like the person with the heartbeat has an arrhythmia. You get the occasional sound of what sounds like someone screaming but I have no idea what they are saying, but it sounds like they are saying “run it” or “running,” and to make matters worse they are snapping their fingers as they walk towards you. I feel like I’m in a seriously messed up version of West Side Story. When we do get drops we get this hollow twinkling sound, like a child’s mobile that’s off kilter. The whole thing is seriously something out of your nightmares and makes your skin crawl, which is definitely a cool mix, but it’s hard for me to really classify what kind of drum and bass this is because there’s very little fast beating drums. You have your snare every so often and the maracas sounds are probably a form of synthetic drum, but this isn’t what I’d normally call “drum and bass.” Maybe that’s a good thing, I’m not sure yet. I know I won’t listen to this one alone in the dark though.
“Lawless” begins like a kung fu movie introduction and then drops straight into heavy synthetic bass that sounds more like a blown out speaker than anything else. The snare drums kick in with some high pitched laser sounds and things start to heat up about a minute in some tiered crescendos that are like air raid sirens. Our laser sounds are more frequent and then about a minute and a half in we hear the sound of someone being punched in the gut - “Ugh!” - so let’s put this together and see what we get: lungful opening, air raid sirens, heavy synthetics, laser blasts, someone being punched in the gut, and then about three minutes in a sound like a little kid hiccuping shows up briefly. Our theme thus far has been creepy and horror films, so I’d say this is a robot kung fu movie and the robots have come to attack the humans because of them went rogue, hence our title of “Lawless.” One man stands in their way as the air raid sirens go off, but he is quickly overpowered and his child is taken. Near the end of the track we actually hear what sounds like a child’s scream echoing off. The synths and drums fade off in the distance. Aww hell! Someone’s about to get his groove back and kick some robot ass! I want to hear more, don’t you?
For the last reviewed number I was thinking about skipping to the last track, “Robots”, but I couldn’t do it… Not when the second-to-last track is called “Purple Frog.” I mean, how can you resist that? I have to talk about it. You start out with the eerie sound of wind in a cave, the occasional rock falling, and then this high pitched dinging sound with a hip-hop beat comes out of nowhere. I realize now that this a Snoop Dog tribute and I expect there to be some phat beats, and thankfully I am not disappointed. The clap clap and ding ding matches perfectly against some robot synths and synthetic mumblings right up until the first drop about two minutes in. Everything drops away and there’s this echo of something metal bouncing in a hallway that sounds almost like “duh-duh-dum” with the “dum” being a whisper sound. The second half of the track is a synthetic robot talking sound and that’s when it hits you: Snoop Dog is a robot. That whisper sound is his exhaust port pumping out that fine ass weed he’s always singing and this is big reveal. Unfortunately I think he had a bad trip because the song ends abruptly. Almost like, “Ah shit… Did I leave this thing on recording? Sniggildy diggilty, ya’ll, we gotta redo this.” Snoop, man, I’ve been telling you to stop smoking Purple Frog. That shit’ll kill you. Stick to cooking with Martha, trust me.
This album is genuinely creepy for the most part and I love it. This should be the soundtrack to the new IT that is coming out - but don’t get me started on that because Tim Curry is still THE essential Pennywise because he’s British and way more than just creepy. I like how the artists really got down and dirty on this one and had fun, throwing in the occasional curve ball, keeping you on your toes, and making my job a lot easier. I’m gonna go to the toy store to donate that old jack-in-the-box and pick up a monkey holding some cymbals to talk some sense into my computer before it plots my demise with the toaster. I’ve seen how they look at me. I know what’s going on. Damn, I’m out of purple frog.
Pick up “Skin Out” available now. Sniggldy diggildy, y’all.