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Album Review: Blackout Beach’s ‘Skin of Evil’

Blackout BeachBack in late September of 2008 Carey Mercer sent Pitchfork Media a letter in regards to his sophomore release under his solo project Blackout Beach.

“I wrote this record because I desired to make something that stays on task. I picked an easy task: desire, longing, flight, the sorrow of absence… the DNA of most good songs,” wrote Mercer in the brief letter’s opening sentences.

As a fan of Frog Eyes and Mercer’s other projects, I thought I knew what to expect from Skin of Evil. I imagined something similar to the feel of the first release, Light Flows the Putrid Dawn, or possibly something reminiscent of his songs on Swan Lake’s first album Beast Moans. Instead of hearing a tidal wave of instruments break against Mercer’s dramatic and often times fierce delivery we hear something more focused and ultimately more intriguing this time around.

The differences between Skin of Evil and Mercer’s other work are vast and appealing. With Light Flows the Putrid Dawn we saw that Blackout Beach was the darkest of his projects. That darkness remains, but rather than acting as a rough commentary that wraps up the human experience in a blanket of fog, it instead reveals itself as a clear and powerful force. The album doesn’t push you through the music like other albums with a similar approach; it acts more like a guide delicately leading you through your journey.

The journey itself is a story about a temptress named Donna. She is the ideal notion of what classical Greek society would’ve considered the perfect woman.

Eight of the songs on the album belong to former lovers, all still consumed with their love for Donna. The other two songs belong to Donna and her current lover- William. The results of each individual’s story equate to a musical triumph.

The combination of Mercer’s close attention to language and detail with his newfound minimalistic musical approach are the secret behind his brilliance. The drum machine sounds vintage, providing a fuzzy lo-fi familiarity to the songs, as if they were beats a friend was showing you in his basement. The guitar hits you like raindrops against a pond, crashing against the surface of the songs and rippling outward over the music.

His vocal delivery is much more straight-forward, confined within the songs. Added to this is the presence is a female vocalist, possibly playing Donna, to help some of the tracks along.

This atmospheric and gripping album only spans a little over thirty minutes, but it remains constantly strong, building up the experience, making every minute matter to the listener. Mercer’s stage is set, we can only hope for a tour to be announced so that audiences can be pulled into the theater of his work. It would be a shame if we couldn’t share this experience with Mercer in a live setting.

Soft Abuse Records

-Jason Cunningham, Entertainment Editor: