Skeptics – Amalgam
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The New Zealand post-industrial group formed in 1979 and throughout the '80s recorded for the Flying Nun label. The outsiders of the stable, the group was miles apart from the sophisticated pop the label championed and was an extraordinary entity whose music transcended any genre title thrown at it. Expanding on the rock form, their final album reflected elements of post-punk groups such as P.I.L., the lumbering sonic weight of the Swans, and Einstürzende Neubauten, although Amalgam is a music of absolute self-invention. This extraordinary album carries a bleak intellectual and emotional weight accredited to vocalist David D'Arth, who tragically died of Leukemia shortly after the album's completion in 1990. The complexity of their arrangements is dramatic and seemingly effortless -- beyond the capabilities one would expect from a rock band. The sampler played a prominent role with the arrangement of songs, and sinuous dub-inflected rhythm compliments the singing and spoken text, set amidst a constantly evolving texture of samples. Drummer Brent McGlachlan and guitarist John Halvorsen shared a parallel membership in Bailterspace, and those familiar with soaring dramatic guitarscapes of that group will find similarities in Skeptics, although their turgid sound comes from a darker place.