Skin of Evil
There are a number of reviews floating around out there on the internet which affix the “folk” genre tag to Carey Mercer’s solo project, Blackout Beach. It’s a fairly strange labeling as any in-depth listen to Skin of Evil reveals a sound about as far from bucolic pastorals and the warped/weird acid trips most favored by the troubadours of the Aughts.
Instead, the closest touchstone for both Mercer’s voice and music under this moniker is David Bowie in his Berlin period. Spitting out his words breathlessly, hazily, coldly mechanized or furiously, there’s a theatricality to Mercer’s vocals as rich as anything in Bowie’s repertoire. Similarly, the sonic accompaniment here is minimal in both what instruments are used and how often they’re brought to bear. Guitars or keys might claw their way out of some silent ether for one casual brush with melody, then sink back into nothingness. Remarkably, the amount of reverb and delay Mercer adds to tracks like “The Roman” exude a huge, ominous sound with little more than four echoing notes. It’s a more organic experiment than Bowie and Eno’s time in Germany, but Skin of Evil still retains the impersonal feeling of sound waves echoing off the walls of a deserted airplane hanger. It’s like a ghostly opera, beautiful and empty. It’s also one of the best releases of 2009.
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