SkeletonCrew is an alternative music project by musician/composer Felix Danilo and vocalist Nicole Obren from the Far North of New Zealand, who’ve been playing together since the age of twelve. Taking a break from being in larger bands, SkeletonCrew is an exercise in musical self-sufficiency and using the newfound creative freedom to explore the wider universe of music. Danilo creates the concepts weaving themes together with a variety of instruments, while Obren provides a story with her lyrics evoking a range of emotions with her smooth vocals.
Their debut as a duo, It’s Better I Don’t Know, is a genre-bending album, encompassing a range of styles within the indie/alternative music genre, blending elements of rock, pop, electronica and jazz. There are many layers to it, all carefully crafted to complement each other and brought together by Obren’s voice and arresting lyrics. The songs’ various genres fit together with a stylistic flow, incorporating instrumental interludes and sampled everyday sounds. As live performers Danilo and Obren are no strangers, having played many festivals and Northland events, both separately and together. They have a lot of fun and energy on stage and plan to put together a full live band to perform their music this summer. They’re also working on their next album.
The opening track is a mix of what sounds like a tape machine and an ethereal guitar, car traffic and voices in perhaps a downtown setting – a cool, inviting beginning. “Stay” carries on more of the smooth, jazzy guitar sounds with electronic drumbeats and ambient keyboards. Genre wise, it mixes up indie pop and what’s known as “chill.” The song ends with some raining effects. So far, a great soundtrack for summer. “Her” has more of a ‘take charge’ feel, more command with a somewhat traditional verse/bridge/chorus structure. The heavier guitar and synth work have a psychedelic feel to it. “Synthia” begins with some rain sounds and a larger presence of keyboards and bass. I think style wise, this reminded me a little of post-disco – those obscure disco-like songs that crossed over into the territory of new wave, dance-electronica, art rock and pop. Only a few iconic artists have been able to pull this off, Bowie being one of them.
Anyway, this tune transitions into “Let Me Be Lost” a short instrumental that mixes ethereal keys, a slow chill beat and airy, soundscape guitars with more tape deck and rain sound effects. Next is “Show Me, Teach Me” a dreamy, echoing song with heavy effects on the vocals and muffled guitar riffs. This one had a creepy Halloween feel to it. The song fades out with “magical” sounding keys. “Goodbye” features the fastest tempo on the entire album and a few guitars layered on top of each other. I loved the fabulous guitar sounds towards the end. It didn’t occur to me until now, that the duo’s style and/or sound, reminds me of Portishead, Poliça and perhaps Lorde.
The last number is “Come and Get Me” that band’s jazziest and most playful, I thought. Obren’s vocal work is commanding here, while Danilo’s guitar work and composing is captivating. At times sensual and playful, at other times ethereal and vulnerable with spaced out chill effects, SkeletonCrew’s It’s Better I Don’t Know… is a gorgeous layered journey of sounds, a parade of musical elements that enliven the ears and go beyond the conventional structures of music. The kind of music that would go well with some dreamy video clips to complement this duo’s work. Looking forward to hearing more.
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