With perhaps the most impactful, harrowing take on minimalist drone since they released Kevin Drumm’s ‘Imperial Distortion’ over a decade ago, Hospital Productions finally release the first proper new album from Skin Crime in years, a quietly harrowing, Japanese ghost story-inspired album of darkest ambient and industrial shadowplay inverting noise convention and exploring ideas of tense, slow-burn patience instead of aggressive intensity.
Described by the label as “the missing link between Kevin Drumm, Painjerk and Mika Vainio”, Skin Crime took a 12 year hiatus until 2016 and the bloodshed of their instantly sold-out, 20CD boxset of archival material. That same year they also issued ‘Ghosts I Have Been’, a crushingly bleak album inspired by Japanese mythology and ghost stories which have paved the way for this new one, where the band’s Patrick O’Neil and Mark Jameson continue to refine their instincts into the dankest brand of organic ambient noise.
In key with their ghostly Japanese muse, specifically the “Bakaneko” or “Ghost Cat” movies of the ‘50s and ‘60s, as well as the writing of Lafcadio Hearn aka Koizumi Yakumo – author of ‘Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things’ – Skin Crime’s music in ‘Traveller on the Road’ is all about presence and the suggestibility of hypnagogic and half-awake states. Their cold-fingered sleight of hand is applied to exceedingly fine layers of textural enigma in long, unbroken tracts that hold the listener’s gaze with frightening power.
‘Avoid Large Places At Night’ takes hold with intravenal potency, very subtly drawing eyes to half-mast with its mechanical womb-like ambience, and stealthily introducing subharmonic rumbles and peripheral rustles that suggest unseen spectres lurking in a thicket of ghosts. A lack of sudden movement only ratchets the threat levels to seat-edge. Likewise with its deeply soporific subs and texturhythms, the B-side’s ‘Black Cat From The Grove’ continues to numb the senses in a noise style, but eviscerated of all open aggression, preferring a dense mode of suggestion that only emphasises the unheimlich nature of their music.
It’s a masterclass in saying it without saying it, and alongside those references to Kevin Drumm, Painjerk and Mika Vainio, the album also sits well alongside Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement and Meitei – and not to be missed by any fans of the above.