Throw a cow bell behind even the most atonal guitar lick and the power of ‘groove’ naturally takes over. It works with other percussive elements too, and that’s what The Skull Defekts teach us on Peer Amid. I think they want the message to be deeper than that, given Lungfish singer Daniel Higgs has joined the Swedish group to give psycho-spiritual sermons, but there’s no ignoring the powerful rhythms that guide his voice.
If you haven’t heard Skull Defekts before, imagine if The Cramps discovered Indian ragas while snorting Krautrock’s ashes in Berlin galleries with Sonic Youth during the late eighties. The riffs are simple mantras that drone out from wobbly, open tuned, sitar-like guitars, occasionally garnished with a digital flourish. Notes are regularly bent out of tune in homage to Sonic Youth’s days of interfering with their instruments using screwdrivers and such. The drums are a metronomic but bouncy force dressed in tribal percussion.
Songs like the title track, and No More Always are warped rockers. Meanwhile In Majestic Drag is a threatening jam of atonal fuzz and thundering drums where Higgs squeals, moans and yelps incoherently like a shaman losing his fucking mind. The band pare things back to a single haunting chord on The Silver River, which they allow to ring out for a few beats at a time while Higgs ‘oms’ in unison. It’s spooky, almost supernatural, but also a soothing break from the rest of the record.
If you’ve heard any other Skull Defekts records you’ll notice how significant Higgs’ effect is on Peer Amid. His Bela Lugosi vocal approach and demented self-help rants give the band a powerful and ominous tone which sets this apart from their earlier stuff. It’s bucket loads of fun too. Skull Defekts have been doing this for a long time, and are also known for more experimental vinyl releases delving into drone and noise, which unfortunately I haven’t heard. I need to get my hands on some of those. Meanwhile, you need to get your hands on a copy of Peer Amid.