is a beautiful album. It is warm and enveloping. It is full of shadows but flashes with brilliance. It is oblique, yet often familiar. It is intelligent, inventive and inspiring. And it is very hard to put into words. Chantal Passamonte, the UK-based Warp songstress with South African roots who wooed the electronic music community with her 2000 debut OneOnOne
, here returns wrapped in a world of analog electronics, curiously manipulated found sounds and the reconstructed source audio of a weathered electric guitar.
Skimskitta is not an easy listen -- not at first, anyway. Passamonte has created a text that references itself on numerous levels. The first half of the album means significantly more once the second portion has revealed itself, just as the latter is seemingly redefined after re-examining tracks such as "Poussou" and "The Wolf, The Sheep & The Door". "Poussou", with its playful piano line and pounding (albeit sparse) percussion track, recalls both Aphex Twin and the instrumental passages of past Spiritualized trips. The latter is a dark and ominous atmospheric piece that nods to the earliest work of labelmates Autechre, but speaks in a vernacular closest to their most recent efforts. When Passamonte's voice appears in the mix, it's haunting and spellbinding, and completely recontextualizes the nature of the sounds that surround it. "Poussou" is re-articulated in the album's centerpiece, the aching and harmonious "I May Be Over There (But My Heart Is Over Here)"; piano strokes share space with shrieking tones, the percussive cycle of rolling rocks and abstract vocal forms.
These sounds, which reappear throughout the album, rarely do so in a familiar form. Instead, we're offered faded memories and inaccurate recollections of the aural elements of previous compositions. "Shadenfreude" is a synthesizer-heavy track that incorporates regulated glitch qualities foreshadowed by "Woody" and "Sixnot6". While their unique percussive sounds hypnotize, Passamonte's voice once again acts as the most intriguing instrument in the arrangements.
"You Open Always" is a brilliant wink-and-nod to My Bloody Valentine's textually dense and rhythmically intense template. Its swirling, melodic ambience spins circles around a hammering drum track that pushes listeners into a claustrophobic space, then liberates them. "Hiccup", on the other hand, is a spooky yet childish sound collage that evokes the tattered image of Múm and only gives us the opportunity to escape upon its silent conclusion.
Through all of this, Mira Calix offers listeners a complete listening experience that transforms itself and gathers meaning with each subsequent encounter. Highly recommended.