Skye Klad is a Minneapolis-based “experimental space music” project founded by Jason Kesselring. Over the years, the band has become known for its relentless attack and dark occult leanings. However, after a hiatus of several years, they have charted a new direction with plays the Musick…. Skye Klad may describe themselves as “experimental space music” but the space they explore in plays the Musick… is the dark forest of the soul. Alternating between the light touch of acoustic guitars, the moaning drone of french horns, eerie chanting vocals, and pummeling dark percussion, Skye Klad infuse a sense of creeping unease into all they touch.
The album starts with the brief predatory acoustic instrumental “The Wolf that follows the Faun that Flies” before launching into the gothic spiritual of “The Cross of Lorraine.” With an act of simple repetition and subsititution of Satan for Christ in the second stanza, Kesselring subverts the Eucharist into its evil doppelganger of blood sacrifice. In around a minute and a half, he has laid out the unsettling blueprint for the psychic hypnosis Skye Klad will use to blur good and evil for the rest of the album.
The gathering storm of “Fleeting Faunus and the Prophecy of the Fields” layers chanting vocals, french horn, guitars and increasingly urgent tribal drumming to signal that the horses of the Apocalypse are nearing the starting gate. Almost completely eschewing the harsh distortion effects of amplification, the song achieves its unsettling effect purely from a carefully controlled spiralling intensity. Next voices whisper almost from beyond the grave in “Mary Magdalene” as echoing guitars hover like fumes around them. The song is a slinkily erotic raga dedicated to perhaps the most famous trope for carnal temptation in all of Christianity. Fans of Vibracathedral Orchestra’s sensuous side will find much to like here. Then the epic “Beyond the Ice and Storm” hovers with its delicately pattering percussion promising salvation only to be coaxed back into darkness by the guitar swell building underneath it.
In the disc’s centerpiece, “The Sleeper”, Kesselring takes the words of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1831 poem and crafts a creepy country-tinged musical backdrop to its liminal horror out of acoustic guitar, his deep resonant voice and floating spirit horns. Evoking both the open desert sky and the claustrophobia of the tomb in the same tune is no mean feat, but the song manages to balance a sense of both expanding and collapsing space.
The remainder of the album softens the assault of the first half with gradually more extensive use of acoustic guitar and more open arrangements. Far from a dissipation of the momentum accumulated so far, the second half simmers with a restless energy. If there is a knock on this recording it is that even as well-paced as most of the disc is, some of the longer pieces do not hold up as well under repeated plays. Ultimately this is a minor criticism and once under the spell Skye Klad weaves, most listeners will probably be too far in its thrall to even notice. Recommended.