Review: Skyjelly – Blank Panthers / Priest, Expert, Or Wizard

Times are hard. Not only here in good ole Mexico, but everywhere in the world. Are albums on the top buying priority of people? I mean, I still buy albums, but I’m an outlier, so I’m statistically insignificant. Most people I know either go for streaming or, erhm, Buccaneer-approved copies.

Now, two albums for the price of one? Deal. 16 tracks of psychofantastic grooves, beats, and bass? Where do I sign? On a blue translucent tape? Oh yeah. Skyjelly have just released a tape filled to the brim with experimental music, grabbing a bit of psychedelia, a bit of drone, a couple of mushrooms and a lot of reverb. This double album in a single tape is Blank Panthers/Priest, Expert, Or Wizard. 

The Blank Panthers section goes from tracks one to five and offer Skyjelly as the sonic equivalent of a swamp boat road through the mysterious swamps of Louisiana. What’s that? A solitary blues solo far away, in the distance? Or is it the screech of a dying animal? Is that drumming sound a local cult, beseeching an Ancient One to raise back? There’s a mystic sense throughout these tracks, like out of body experiences. Now, there is a structure to the deceptively rambling nature of Skyjelly and you can only “get it” if you immerse yourself in this double album. Don’t you dare leave it as background music, you will only filter it out. This one invites you to a sofa (or bed) while relishing your fave mood altering drug (mine’s coffee.)

‘Krilltastica’ is the clear gem of Blank Panthers. Do not fear the long running time, it’ll  slip through fingers and zip back into your brain, shortcircuiting your axons and dendrites all over. It’s a gorgeous slice of proper psychedelia, performed and captured perfectly.

But there is so much more here. ‘Can’t take my mind’ sometimes resembles a lost indie track, straight from summer of 2010, reworked as an angsty recollection. Maybe a moral hangover. Maybe a sweet memory, distorted by the unforgiving passage of time…

Priest, Expert, or Wizard is a little less hazy. Maybe instead of a trip through haunted swamps, it’s the everglades. Still a musty atmosphere, heavy on the improvisation and ghostly voices. Think of a slowed down version of Psychic Ills (on their Dins phase), power up the Easy Rider tremolos and bass, and step on the roaring engine of  a Vincent Black Shadow. Sometimes you’ll almost crash in a curve (‘Attention Spam’), sometimes you’ll plow through a Banco de Gaia inspired rave. It will be a blast and you’ll have the cuts and bruises to show for. There are fewer oblique tracks, heck, Skyjelly sometimes go full punk on u s, like ‘Watch out’, a road-rage discourse on a topsy-turvy lane. The jovial ‘Down the road’ is almost like a batucada session, with enough handclaps to get you ready for the feast (or sacrifice) that will come later, and an unnerving series of children voices, sampled and distorted for the gusto of providing a pitch-perfect atmosphere.

I only realised this was a double album once I started doing my job and snoop around. You could’ve fooled me, as the consistency in Skyjelly and the quality of their tracks never comes down. Once Blank Panthers/Priest, Expert, Or Wizard is over, you feel spent. Like something changed. Maybe it’s the spent incense stick, crumbled over the floor. Maybe it’s the dissonant intro of ‘Headphone Jack’, ritualistically engraved on your forehead forever. Whatever it was, Skyjelly is a trip that leaves no hangover, but sure does remind you it happened.

Words: Sam J. Valdés López

Skyjelly Bandcamp. Twitter. Facebook. Soundcloud. Website.

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