Skoddie – Biaxially-Oriented Polyethylene Terephthalate
Recommendation: ✂ (the first eight tracks)
Ever been interested in what early Autechre’s take on vaporgoth or dark ambient would sound like?1 That’s Biaxially-Oriented Polyethylene Terephthalate by Skoddie, also known as Skoddie the Cat, whose late-2015 album is a two-and-a-half hour odyssey through various forms of lowercase, dark ambient, drone music, and field recording; with disordered album titles that evoke a memory dump.
The biggest problem with ambient music production is that artists don’t give their tracks enough room to evolve – and by “room,” I mean “time.” A great example of an album that completely avoided this is Question 4 by Unknown Artist, whose half-hour dreampunk suite is topically one-noted, but evolves into decayed-furniture music; or Phaedra by Tangerine Dream and Discreet Music by Brian Eno, if you want to reach back a bit further. Ambient music is one of the few genres for which long track lengths are not only excused, but encouraged; and if not, then at least have the album flow into a single long suite for consistency, as with 天使 by チェスマスター.
Skoddie avoids this problem. Not just through long songs – which, I’ll admit, is a statement seriously in danger of minimizing ambient music production – but through the evolution of songs. The titular “Biaxially-Oriented”-“Polyethylene”-“Terephthalate” suite flow through each other, growing from vague ambient washes to nature soundscapes to sub-bass rumblings that evoke the style of Bartosz Szturgiewicz via his soundtrack for Kairo. “End myTh mone” (an appropriately glitchy song title) utilizes the oft-referenced sounds of frog sounds and insect chatter, but it’s not nearly as gimmicky as these samples usually are, and that’s because Skoddie doesn’t have them take the forefront of the track’s production, but instead uses them to compliment its synth-drone. “The Most Cartoonish Horrors” is dissonant, but unlike Employee#6817’s Eulogy, it doesn’t delve into the bowels of noise music.
It’s a cool album, and it’s welcome because it doesn’t try so hard to throw in tons of effects and elaborations on sound at once. Take a look at “Polyethylene,” which most prominently features a rise-and-fall of synthesized string tones, but also incorporates vague mumblings in the background (that are totally easy to miss upon first listen) and features some crashing percussion close to the five-minute mark that is genuinely startling but without bombast. “Esc My Comternal Plause” almost gets a beat going, but it’s so distorted and decomposed that it resigns to fading out into little more than pitter-patters. Those two tracks are the best places to start for those who might be initially put-off by the album’s length.
Those who purchase Biaxially-Oriented Polyethylene Terephthalate as a digital download will also receive the 78-minute long “Retrospective” suite, which is extreme dark ambient with the most gradual of synth oscillations gently rising out of the murk, very similar to the aforementioned Question 4. Play it loud for the full effect.
1. eFfelyvn sc sCr_rightwards – (9:45)
2. End myTh mone – (10:31)
3. Biaxially-Oriented – (5:51)
4. Polyethylene – (13:11)
5. Terephthalate – (12:57)
6. Esc My Comternal Plause – (9:51)
7. Happy Birthday Skoddie – (6:18)
8. The Most Cartoonish Horrors – (11:11)
9. Retrospective 2.1 – (26:00)
10. Retrospective 2.2 – (26:00)
11. Retrospective 2.3 – (26:18)
1This is the second or third time that I’ve mentioned Autechre in a Sunbleach review.