Skee Mask – Compro

8.5

Skee Mask‘s reputation didn’t develop slowly – he just mysteriously appeared. When his first album Shred dropped at the beginning of 2016 on Ilian Tape, hardly anyone knew who the person behind its gloomy cover was. Now, leading up to his second album Compro, more has been revealed. Skee Mask is a young guy from the outskirts of Munich called Bryan Müller. He’s been active in the electronic music scene since his late teenage years, and quite successfully so; As SCNTST he was part of the Boys Noize Records crew and to date, he hasn’t left that moniker behind completely. Just three weeks prior to the release of Compro, another album by SCNTST came out. Both demonstrate the relentless productivity of Müller.

Skee Mask has established a reputation for a breakbeat-heavy sound, with strong references to IDM. The twelve tracks featured on Compro follow this same path, but the sound is more smoothed-out. While Shred featured snow-capped mountains on its cover, brusque and dark – fitting for its sound aesthetic – Compro shows a connected, yet very different scene. A faded silhouette in clear-blue surroundings, seemingly wandering through a hazy snowstorm. No rough edges, only white noise.

The opening track “Cerroverb” sounds just like this. Ambient, with some bright strings and a minimalistic lead melody stumbling around, disorientated. The track is so empty it almost feels like a non-place, and seems to be intended as a kind of reset button. What follows, is a gradual increase in intensity – regarding speed and punchiness. “Session Add” introduces slow, bass-heavy breaks. It conveys a tranquil positivity, due to cautious bells and a warm lead synth-line.

Melody is an omnipresent theme on Compro, more so than on its predecessor. As Skee Mask has perfected the rhythmic base – the drums – he is now able to focus on melodies that form a sort of voice within his tracks. They are well-crafted and catchy, so much even that pop arrangements may perhaps be a reference point. “Rev8617” is a perfect example: a short, yet highly recognisable melody is repeated in multiple variations of poppy synths, propped up on tightly-knit, fluttering, downtempo drums.

The rise in intensity continues through punchy “50 Euro To Break Boost” and “Soundboy Ext.”, which features a blurry jungle beat. The deeply serene “VLI” acts like a second reset to prepare the listener for the next act. It gets even more repetitive here. One standout piece in this section is “Flyby VFR”. With a string-induced sense of longing and a futuristic vision (paradoxically a nineties IDM futurism), it has true hit-like qualities. To round the structure off, Skee Mask closes with another time-warping downtempo jam.

Compro leaves no doubt that Müller is an utterly talented producer, who continues to work at evolving his sound. In the two years since Shred was released, breakbeat has experienced mass popularisation. Logically, Skee Mask had to take breakbeat further – and he has. Enriched with melodies and consciously placed intermissions, breakbeats form the core of his tracks – but they aren’t the single defining feature.