I remember hearing Jakob Skott for the first time. It was before I realized he was the drummer in Causa Sui, or the co-label runner of El Paraiso Records. I’d just opened my brain up to the world that El Paraiso was building within their roster. I was a newly baptised believer and was primed to soak up whatever musical voodoo they had to offer. Skott was readying his album Amor Fati and my mind was blown by title track “Amor Fati”. I was a fan instantly. Preorder put in. Done and done.
If you’re not familiar, Skott blends these groove-inflected drum tracks with bubbling synth noise and electronic riffage. He somehow takes the heavy lifting of early 70s fusion and mixes it up with the kind of sci fi vibes you’d find inside an old 3rd edition paperback of Philip K. Dick or Ray Bradbury that you’d find at a yard sale. There’s really nothing like the galactic voodoo that Skott conjures on his solo LPs.
Since 2014, Jakob Skott has released Amor Fati, Taurus Rising, and All The Colours of the Dust, as well as two Videodrones LPs and five Causa Sui LPs(three studio albums and two live joints.) The guy does not sit on his laurels, folks. Not only does he make great music, he designs all his album art as well as the majority of the albums El Paraiso puts out.
Jakob Skott has returned with Instrumentality, one of his most dense and personal collections of songs yet. The electro grooves remain, as does Skott’s stellar drum work. But there’s an element of pulsation and disorientation here, giving the album a feeling of being lost in one’s own head.
The first thing you notice is just how heavy this album is. Opening track “The Dura Plane” blasts out of the speakers with a synth riff that sounds like it could just as well be Tony Iommi blasting Sabbath riffs thru Marshall stacks. Soon enough electronic noise starts to bleep and blare like Tinnitus in the skull of an android. There’s an almost exotic vibe to the track. Skott keeps us grounded with his amazing drum work, but the vibe here is on some other plane. “2nd Foundation” breezes in on a serious groove with the electronics reminiscent of Skott’s own “Eastman Oyster” off Amor Fati. There’s a real rawness to the sonic world here. Of course it’s not recorded “live”, as Jakob Skott is performing it all here, but there’s still a sense of urgency in the performances. That urgency one attains when you hit record and hope everyone is on point. The synthesizers seem to pulsate from somewhere inside. Like a distant light you catch a glimpse of in a dense woods at dusk.
So back at the beginning of the year, Skott developed an immense headache that landed him in the hospital over New Years. That headache was caused by a CSF leak, or cerebrospinal fluid leak. The docs didn’t know what caused it and said Skott would eventually heal, which according to him he’s about 95% there. I mention this because this is sort of where Instrumentality begins. The record wasn’t begun as some exercise in therapy, or a project to deal with what he’d gone thru. Skott started this album like all the others before; loop some synth riffs, hit record, and sit behind the kit and see what happens. But the subconscious has a way of taking over and the album we have now is a bit of a journey into the mind. A mind in distress, or rewiring itself.
Take “Altered State”, which is filled with woozy synth structures and a methodical rhythm. Skott’s drum playing here is reminiscent of Stewart Copeland, while the melodies sway like exotic trees off some foreign shore, or rise like wavering heat signatures from sweltering asphalt. “Purple Visage” runs on a wonky rhythm, like some slowed down and reversed Miles Davis/Teo Macero concoction. There’s a psychedelic vibe here with things getting very ethereal towards the end. It’s a track of sonic delight.
The album closes on the epic and nearly 15-minute “Tapping The Source With The Lords of Instrumentality”. Here Skott summons all his musical powers for a sonic flight thru innerspace. The overdubbed percussion gives the song a jungle vibe almost, something like a cross between Popol Vuh crossing paths with Sextant-era Herbie Hancock. I think it’s Jakob Skott’s densest production yet, and his most impressive.
Jakob Skott’s newest LP sees him going inward, without making an album that feels overtly autobiographical. The songs here are noisy, dense, and filled with electronic brush strokes kept together by Skott’s drum wizardry. Even with it not being his intent, Instrumentality is a glimpse inside a mind healing. Thoughts renegotiating with synapses and muscle movements, searching for even ground where creativity can grow again. Fortunately Skott found that even ground, as Instrumentality might be his boldest work yet.
8.6 out of 10
Instrumentality is out November 30th via El Paraiso Records. Preorder the album here.