Sugar Skulls — The Little Death
(Blackhouse Records Bh99931, 2010, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2013-05-01This CD is some serious fun. Serious because the musicians really know what they're doing, both in the composing and playing. Fun because they have a playful (though adult) sense of humor about their material. The end result is in some ways comparable to other bands labeled as "math-rock" - especially those who also have some tendencies toward classic progressive rock as well. But mostly, Sugar Skulls are off in their own world. When listening to the music the first time, there's so much happening that the lack of a guitar in the lineup (keyboards, violin, bass, drums) might not be immediately apparent, though it does figure prominently in the band's identity. Keyboards provide the foundations of the tunes, with Henrietta Fox Nebel supplying a variety of tone colors to set the stage. The electric violin is a frequent spotlight stealer - Julie Baldridge is exceptionally creative and skilled, whether playing her instrument with a natural sound or with effects. With so much going on, you might not notice Ursula Beatrice Stuart's bass immediately, but when you do, you'll be impressed. (Having seen the band live, I can attest that she's a monster player.) Both Fox Nebel and Stuart sing, taking different parts as the songs tell their stories, having the kind of dramatic delivery that reminds me of 80s Art School bands like Human Sexual Response and The Stick Men (not Tony Levin's band). Musically, obviously some Zappa figures in their likes, as well as some RIO and even Björk. There's some similarity to Charming Hostess, though without the Eastern European flavor. Both complex and accessible, Sugar Skulls are a strong musical presence, and I hope they can continue to produce recordings as strong as this one.
Related artist(s): Sugar Skulls
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Cabezas de Cera and Jack o' the Clock, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more
Acoustic Festival of Britain 2017 Announces Eclectic Lineup – The Acoustic Festival of Britain has been going since 2006, and this year's event sees a number of outstanding artists on the bill. Fairport Convention, Tir na nOg, and Martin Turner are some of the artists we've covered, and there are many more, including The Men They Couldn't Hang, Howard Jones, Chantel McGregor, and many more. The festival runs June 2-4, 2017 at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire. » Read more