Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities Lucas (Ghostly International) Release date: May 8, 2007
Curb Your Cynicism is a recurring blogtastic feature in which the music editor pithily enthuses about new releases and reissues he thinks will enhance your life and erode your cynicism about the state of music, circa now.
I hear thousands of new CDs and LPs every year. In any given 12-month period, the number of genuinely surprising, original releases can easily fit into a regular-sized backpack. I would include Lucas in that sack. When music leaves you this baffled and befuddled, you know you're in the presence of something special. All of which makes reviewing such a distinctive magnum opus very challenging. But here goes...
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Imagine a polymath multi-instrumentalist who's ransacked the world's greatest brick-and-mortar and online record shops, digested their richest contents, and then tried to synthesize them all into crazy-quilt compositions designed for saturation airplay—on Neptune.
I realize that this description is still inadequate, but beads of blood are forming on my forehead as I try to come to grips with this ineffable sound. Skeletons and the King of All Cities are basically Matt Mehlan and a loose collective of musicians who operate on his lofty wavelength; they used to be Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys. The only thing he doesn't excel at is naming his projects.
He and his crew roil, sparkle, rumble, clank, and slither along the musical spectrum, accruing obscure influences from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and the ether. Maybe if Esperanto were music, it would sound like Skeletons. Maybe if Animal Collective covered Brian Eno/David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with Arthur Russell at the controls, it would sound like Skeletons. Neo-classical-prog-gamelan-soul-funk? All right, call it that if you want to hear a million record-store clerks' heads explode.
I know this sounds like hipster eclecticism run rampant, but Lucas is actually imbued with as much soul as anything from the minds of D'Angelo or Jamie Lidell. It's just composed of less obvious mannerisms and signifiers. As with the work of the late Arthur Russell, Skeletons finesse the esoteric into the accessible. Just don't ask me where to file their damned releases...