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Zeppelin 3

Pink Skull

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Album Review

Pink Skull main man Julian Grefe has spoken in interviews about wanting to make a record in the vein of the Chemical Brothers' Dig Your Own Hole, citing its dynamic diversity and cohesive album-length arc as elements lacking in most contemporary dance music. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when listening to the Philadelphia band/DJ collective's sprawling, perplexing debut album — for one thing, it's gotten distressingly difficult to think of the Chems as radical and experimental these days — but that 1997 landmark is an entirely apt reference point. Zeppelin 3 certainly doesn't sound much like the vast majority of electronic music produced this decade, with a rough-edged, acid-washed sensibility that evinces little of electro-house's garish, '80s-refracting gleam or minimal's streamlined polish. And it doesn't sound anything like Led Zeppelin's III (Grefe's all-time favorite album) either, although like the Chems before them, Pink Skull don't shy away from manifesting their love of rock music and stadium-sized excess — Grefe's a veteran of several Philly punk bands, and there are plenty of guitars here although they're employed not so much for righteous riffage as for steady, Kraut-like slow burns ("Zing Zong," "El Topo") and ambient smears ("Ssilt.") There's also a bit of deviant hip-hop — an enjoyable, "Apache"-cribbing remix of Plastic Little's "Crambodia," featuring Amanda Blank, Spank Rock, and, improbably, Ghostface Killah — and a smidgen of indie folk, in the oddly truncated Mirah guest-spot "Take Me Out Riding," which mostly feels like a missed opportunity (particularly in perhaps unfair comparison with the Chemical Brothers' brilliant work with Beth Orton.) Otherwise, most of the album consists of highly abstract, restively mutating, groove-based tracks that land somewhere in between breakbeat and acid house, overlaid with squelching psychedelic synths, percussion breakdowns, snatches of saxophone, and tortured, unrecognizable vocal fragments, and embellished with a dizzying array of effects. In other words, it's not far off from the bulk of Dig Your Own Hole, although this album lacks the equivalent of a "Block Rockin' Beats" or a "Setting Sun." There are few apparent bankable hooks, although the abrasive, insistent fuzz bass lick of the break-happy "Gonzo's Cointreau" (the album's most straightforward stab at big beat revivalism — there's even a siren!), comes close. Partly for that reason, but also because it's not quite as eclectic or as cohesive as Grefe and co. perhaps hoped, Zeppelin 3 can be somewhat daunting and draining to listen through in its entirety. But taken in smaller doses (the ten-minute kitchen-sink workout "Bubblelog Aftermath," for instance), it can be quite effective, and it's definitely a worthwhile and promising step in the ongoing exploration and integration of dance music's interconnected past and future. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

Customer Reviews

something for all y'all

the full breadth of pink skull's skills shine on this record. features everything from hippy house to crushed out jesus and mary chain jams. the icy demons remix might be better than the original, and "take me out riding" featuring mirah, is worth it alone. get the whole record to grasp the full genius.

Wow

one of the best electronic albums of the year. no question.

I'm gonna start being an electronic music producer...

... cuz after listening to this album, it can't be that hard. Chunky mixing, annoying samples, poor editing, and the only tolerable song ("1850") isn't even an original.

Biography

Formed: 2003 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

Genre-bending electronica outfit Pink Skull are primarily the brainchild of DJ and producer Julian Grefe, a longtime fixture of Philadelphia's punk and dance music scenes, along with a host of friends and collaborators, most notably Justin "JG" Geller, and, eventually, a full-fledged band. Through the late '90s and early 2000s, Grefe was a member of emo-punkers the Trans Megetti and the arty S PRCSS (a band whose name he also took as his DJ alias surname), while also working as a DJ and producing...
Full Bio
Zeppelin 3, Pink Skull
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