Review: Skink – Distant Pale Horses

Skink - Distant Pale Horses - coverVoices summon Distant Pale Horses to life. The drone grows like a campfire flame, beckoned into brightness by a strange, hummed ritual refrain; a dissonant congregation scratching at the corporeal veil through sheer persistence, repeated until I feel each voice like a nail dragged gently down my cheek. By the end of the title track’s nine minutes, the drones have grown into a sizable sphere of energy: radiant and optimistic, tinged with an extra-terrestrial green, ready to be harnessed and moulded into the album’s remaining four pieces.

As it transpires, it’s an incredibly pliable resource. The trance rock of “Winter Smoke” sounds like a Cadillac chasing a sunset down, hurtling at high-speed cruise control before leaving the tarmac in the second half, sucking amber light and cloud vapour through the vehicle’s front grill. Meanwhile, “I’ll Say Nothing” is a beatless upward vortex of colour saturation and rings rotating in dizzy, contradictory directions. Time folds over itself in a state of retro-future – staring back into the arpeggiations of old analogue synthesisers which, in turn, stare forward into a sci-fi future that never was – before the whole thing collapses beneath the hammers of an old Victorian piano, played with ghostly despondency into an empty cellar. If there is a narrative then I’m forbidden to know it; I choose instead to fall limp and be carried between elsewheres, embracing the impact of atmospheric contrast like teeth biting into a crisp apple. A child’s voice bumbles into closing track “Hidden”, and I remember to stay small and naïve.