Claude Speeed - My Skeleton

by Rich Morris Rating:5 Release Date:2014-07-28

My Skeleton is a collection of ambient, sometimes almost symphonic works. ‘Washaa’ and ‘Field’ both bubble with Boards of Canada-style analogue-futurist sounds, while the title track, in contrast, recalls Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings (the William Orbit version, of course) in its solemnity and pace.

Claude Speeed, aka Stuart Turner, who’s also been a member of American Men, Degrassi and Russia, has done a good job of drawing from various areas of instrumental music, such as modern classical, minimalist and industrial. ‘My Skeleton’ features staccato, rhythmic sounds very reminiscent of both Steve Reich and John Cage, while ‘Some Other Guy’ begins with an extended burst of scraping, metallic noise, and ‘Tiger Wood’ bares a distinct resemblance to Terry Riley’s groundbreaking ‘A Rainbow in Curved Air’ before spinning off into Tangerine Dream territory, an influence picked up again on later track ‘Prove You Exist’.

However, despite a varied sound-palette, My Skeleton is very one-pace and the pace is slow. Apparently the pieces here were written by Turner during a period of travelling after the death of a loved one. As such, the crawling pace and downbeat atmosphere is entirely understandable, but it makes sitting through the entire album a bit of a chore.

Plus, not every experiment here works on its own terms: ‘Taj Mahal’ and ‘Imperial Message’ introduce vocals and guitar, but these elements don’t contribute much, especially because one can’t understand what Turner is singing. On ‘Taj Mahal’, they only serve to create a mediocre top layer burying what sounds like it could have been an interesting slice of post-dubstep ambience. The closing ‘Hold On’, featuring singer LW, makes the vocals the focal point for a change, but does nothing to shift the overall torpor of the music.

There’s also a tendency towards grandeur, as if Turner feels he has to bulk out fragile sounds which would be better left to stand alone. Quite why the otherwise gorgeous ‘Field’ suddenly breaks out in stadium rock drums and power-chords I’m really not sure. It adds nothing and detracts a lot.

Ultimately, My Skeleton is a little too oppressive, too fussy and mannered, to be beautiful, to transport you somewhere. It’s also too vague for the listener to get a grip on what Turner might be trying to communicate. For all Turner’s obvious musical knowledge and ability to apply that, My Skeleton is not a satisfying synthesis of its disparate influences. It ends up as a fairly depressing listen, and probably not in the way Turner intended.  

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