Ben Shemie is the vocalist and guitarist from Canadian band Suuns. On A Skeleton, his first solo album, he makes stark experimental pop as bare bones as well, a skeleton. It was recorded live with no overdubs resulting in an album with a focussed sense of chaos and a pureness of intent. Released on Hands in the Dark.
Vinyl LP £17.99 HITD 045
LP on Hands In The Dark. White vinyl edition of 100 copies.
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- A Skeleton by Ben Shemie
There’s something so impressive about how Ben Shemie (who you may know from Suuns) has created the songs on A Skeleton. For the most part the actual ‘song’ part is hung on a completely bizarre frame of elastic synth sounds. They ping about with all the chaos of a slightly misshapen bouncy ball; utterly unpredictable and confusing. When you think it’ll go left it darts right, when you think it’s finally calmed down it gets going again. Less Shemie’s vocals, A Skeleton would happily set next to those electronic experiments of the mid-20th century. Much like some of that work Shemie restricts himself to a very particular palette and then proceeds to twist that palette twist it into shapes that are just about music.
But there’s more to A Skeleton, and Shemie isn’t being disingenuous when he describes it as a pop album. This is thanks mostly, to his vocals. He sings with a similar sort of glee to the Animal Collective boys (though with a bit more tact), taking a similar sort of nursery-rhymey approach that is truly infectious. His voice is also treated to a fair bit of processing, which means that despite the melodies he’s singing, there’s a degree of detachment befitting the instrumentation.
The high point is ‘I Know You Feel The Same’ on which gleeful synthesiser fizz up and dissolve away to reveal Shemie ruminating on some relationship. This balance of highs and lows, of emotion and detachment, is what makes A Skeleton quite as special as it is.
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