Alien Skin is the project for George Pappas. Pappas was a member of the ‘80s band Real Life, which had a huge hit that you most likely heard of called “Send Me An Angel.” The video is worth checking out, as it really can’t get any more ‘80s looking than it is.
Pappas has moved on and continued making music. His project Alien Skin and subsequent release Winter On Mars contains atmospheric soundscapes but still lands in the realm of pop. The vocal melodies are often catchy and are the focal center of the songs while multiple layers of sound support his voice. Pappas points to a number of influences including David Sylvian, Martin Gore, David Bowie, The Beatles, Tangerine Dream and Scott Walker. Right off the bat I was reminded of Bowie. That being said I wonder if Brian Eno was an influence. I couldn’t help but think of albums like Ambient 1: Music for Airports and Music for Films. I also heard some influence from Scott Walker after his days as a teen idol. Although albums like The Drift and Bish Bosch are far more experimental and esoteric than Winter On Mars.
The balance between palatable melodies and the atmospheres that Pappas create is impressive throughout the album. Completely ethereal ambient albums such as Selected Ambient Works Volume II by Aphex Twin can serve best as mood music. Winter On Mars is certainly not that for a number of reasons. The focal melodies gives the song as sense of energy and the songs serve a narrative. According to the Bandcamp page, “songs are peppered with narratives and a menagerie of quirky, curious characters wandering aimlessly in the lost and found of the author's imagination.”
Now I have to admit I wasn’t sure what every song was about and there is some ambiguous language but Pappas certainly paints some interesting imagery whether he is singing about a “patch of grass” or a “penny whistler.”
Winter On Mars is a very fluid and cohesive album. In fact it was so fluid and consistent I felt like the album could almost be one long track. “Patches of Grass” was a song that immediately stuck out to me. Another one I sure wouldn't pass up is “She's Paper Thin.” I’m not sure the name of the female singer who is present on some of these tracks such as “She's Paper Thin” but she certainly sounds great.
Some people get the itch early on in life to make music and it just never leaves. I think that's fair to say about Pappas. In Pappas’ case it's nice to hear that he is constantly evolving just like Bowie, Walker and Eno did.
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