Despite the city’s reputation for nurturing grimy techno and tenacious talent, the location can’t take the credit for the industrial tones of Dean O’Sullivan’s latest incarnation of Skinny Downers. Currently based in Berlin, the band has been toiling in dark, electro-fused dystopia for some time now, and the addition of Sardinian bandmate Stella Sesto adds a further thread of influence to their organic, constantly fluctuating line-up.
Over their recent run of releases the band has moved into more accessible territories from the murky claustrophobia of 2012’s ‘Into The Void’, but somehow comfortingly, Skinny Downers still like to play and prowl in the shadows. Freezer Glow has the density of My Bloody Valentine in its opening salvo, with Sesto’s vocal adding a hitherto absent shoegaze-y airiness to Skinny Downers sound, save maybe for an occasional glimpse of light over their lifespan and on a certain Katie Kim collaboration. The chiming chords that spring up in between the dual vocals are almost percussive in their expression; a steel drum whose peal is coaxed from strings and synths, sheet music in place of sheet metal.
Fire Feet opens with an incrementally ascending synth tone; an aircraft taking off until it plateaus, fluctuates and then slowly solidifies into the riff that underpins the song. It’s more akin to the industrialized heft of O’Sullivan’s previous Skinny Downers doom portents, while conversely, the saxophone of New Conservative is a fresh addition to the sonic palate. Certain influences, though, can’t be ignored. O’Sullivan’s vocals are pushed to the fore, along with the guitars, on Big House. Although it’s a commanding tone, his voice never quite manages to escape a Paul Banks comparison.
As another EP draws to a close with the kick drum-driven Go Bigger, the band’s path seems to have echoes of Liars’ increasing detachment from their post-punk origins and progressive evolution into the more dance-oriented oeuvre they currently inhabit. Signs of a similar transition are to be discerned on ‘Kill Figures’. Maybe it is the influence of a new city after all, or maybe it’s Sesto’s contribution to the mix. Either way, once more Skinny Downers leave us wondering how they’ll daub their dark canvas next time around.