For the uninitiated, the wide-wobbling and out-of-step guitar sounds that dominate the first minute and 22 seconds of Skullsplitter might seem like a test of dedication. But when Eric Chenaux's falsetto chimes in to muse, "Have I lost my eyes? Is that twinkle in my mind?" they'll learn there's no option to turn away. On his first proper solo album for Constellation Records, Chenaux's combination of hacked music box guitar experimentation and lonely lounge crooning conjures a spell simply too enchanting to break.
Full of woozy ballads punctuated by gorgeous, adventurous electric and nylon-stringed guitar instrumentals, Skullsplitter is obsessed with the theme of time's onward march, and over its course — especially on "Spring Has Been A Long Time Coming," "Poor Time," "Summer & Time" and the title track — Chenaux launches a thorough poetic investigation of the seasons and the cyclical nature of time and space.
It's particularly significant, then, that "Have I Lost My Eyes?" and "Skullsplitter" find Chenaux reaching into his back catalogue to produce more intimate, nearly unrecognizable renditions of cuts from 2008's Sloppy Ground and 2006's Dull Lights; Chenaux even explored Rodgers and Hart standard "My Romance" before on his 2003 release with the Reveries, Blasé Kisses.
Skullsplitter dispatches the listener on a mission to crack the mysteries of time and space, and without offering much in the way of answers, its potential for repeat listens is enough of a reward. Skullsplitter is a triumph of post-modern songwriting, where decisions can be recast and repurposed to suit the needs of the present. ()