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Skudge – Phantom review

It’s apt that Skudge have called their debut album Phantom, as the mysterious Swedish duo seems to share the same characteristics as a supernatural being. Appearing out of nowhere at the end of 2009, Skudge’s detailed, locked-on house and techno was itself littered with references and influences from other genres, most notably Basic Channel’s dubby sound and the unflinching loopy rhythms of 90s techno, reinterpreted through the prism of dense, slower Berghain tempos. Skudge focus on roughly the same approach for their debut album, and, although book-ended by the sensuous chords and eerie ambience of “Ursa Major” and “Modular Storm”, the album is the most rounded demonstration yet of the duo’s ability to create precision-strike dance floor techno.

“Real Time”, for example, is classic Skudge, with dubby chords riding a filter sweeping across dense drums. “In Between” is deeper than their wont, but still powered by robust drum patterns, while a similar approach is audible on “Eleven”, where sweet chords and bleepy effects are underpinned by tough kicks. These subtle nods to classic sources are most audible on the title track, where Basic Channel scuffled riffs are combined with a moody bass straight out of the Underground Resistance/Rolando armoury. However, equally interesting results occur when Skudge pursue a more aggressive approach: the snappy percussion of “Sandblast” is encased in a metallic shell, “Downtown” reaches a tumultuous climax to the sound of doubled up claps and jarring riffs, and “Pressure Drop” and “Shivers” are rough, distorted workouts that suggest evil spirits may be inhabiting Skudge’s machines. Irrespective of what’s driving it, there is no doubt that this is a supernaturally good album.

Richard Brophy