Press releases are usually to be taken with a large dose of NaCl, but Herb’s claim that Windings of the Dragon Track has “a sound that veers well clear of predictability” is an accurate boast. Skytree is the recording alias of Minnesotan native Evan Snyder. His latest album is a clever hybrid of Boards of Canada type analogue synth melodies, gritty breakbeats and heavily treated acoustic instrumentation. Tracks usually establish a groove and a melodic phrasing, but then quickly zoom off in unexpected directions. It creates a patchwork effect, but one so seamless that the join is seldom apparent. The music evolves into different forms with such subtlety that even radical changes are invisible.
The only one of Snyder’s box of tricks that feels a little overused is the employment of backwards loops. Virtually everything on “Burn, Sphagnum” is back to front – from the synth lines to the spectral female vocal. That’s a minor quibble, and is overshadowed by the sheer inventiveness of much of this music. “And of All the Elements…” is a prime example. It encompasses shimmering synth lines a la FSOL, teetering dubstep beats, distorted guitar loops, a euphoric, wordless vocal and a dark, droning middle section. But then, instead of returning to source, the track fades into a hazy, beatless outro. “Peyotero” is another track that morphs from one thing to another – wooden block beats and guitar easing out into a spaced Eno-esque coda.
The melodies are subtle, but strong: repetitive enough to take root, but varied enough to stay interesting. The beats are inventive, too. Four/four rhythms are jagged and snagged, distorted, crunched up and chopped, and yet maintain their central drive. There are dubstep and breakbeat rhythms, shuffling, mangled hip hop beats, and even a fleeting glimpse of a familiar Apache break on “Liquid of Decision”.
Windings Of The Dragon Track is a superbly realised work. It’s a winning synthesis of grace and grime (in both the original and genre sense) that is restless, sometimes offbeat, but at the same time incredibly inviting.
The album will be released on April 13th.
1 Solcatcher 6:40
2 Stone Standing 4:39
3 And of All the Elements, Water They Like Best 8:08
4 Burn, Sphagnum 5:32
5 Liquid of Decision 5:28
6 Peyotero 5:43
7 Horizon Rock 7:43
8 Muskeg 7:30
9 Bard Owl 4:55
10 Sycamore of Ellicot 5:33