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This Is Skullflower

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Album Review

Matthew Bower has spoken in interviews about always wanting to confound expectations with his music — and that's precisely what he did with the final Skullflower album, or rather, what at the time was the final album for many years. Having become well-known for noise to an extreme degree, taking a quieter tack was a logical reaction — not necessarily a minimal one, though, as there's still plenty of the improvisational energy and interplay between Bower and his then bandmates. Opening song "Lounge," one of three tracks recorded (apparently) in the studio, is hardly Swingers-ready background sleaze, but the balance between a steady feedback, throb-setting rhythm, and the clattering, rising and falling piano parts (either from Bower or from John Godbert) is, on first blush, more listener friendly than, say, "Last Shot at Heaven." "Glider" is seemingly even more so — the piano which provides the rhythm there is steady but rarely cracked or frenetic, though the guitar exchanges and swirls in the mix provide a strong contrast. "Creaky Rigging" is all the more entrancing — a soft psych-jam guitar line making its way over an increasingly discordant/drone arrangement, with Stuart Dennison's efforts on viola adding an even more unearthly element. The final song, with Richard Youngs in on guitar in place of Russell Smith, is the monster — "The Pirate Ship of Reality Is Moving Out...," a nearly-40-minute piece recorded at a live club date in 1995. The sheets of white noise and feedback on top of feedback return with a vengeance as the song progresses — by 12 minutes in, the damage level is near indescribable — yet there's a strong undercurrent of soft melancholy as well as other moments where the performers strip back to almost nothing, a balance of abuse and restraint carefully performed.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s

Skullflower was the flagship band of the Broken Flag collective, a group of experimental noise rock bands from the U.K. (most notably Ramleh, Total, and Sunroof!) that often swapped ideas and personnel. Led by guitarist Matthew Bower, the highly prolific Skullflower boasted the largest cult following of the bunch, with a sound based on sludgy, Black Sabbath-style riffs overlaid with feedback, fuzzed-out guitar noise, and throttling rhythms, all played at an ungodly volume. Always an improvisational...
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This Is Skullflower, Skullflower
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