Exclaim!'s Top 10 Improv & Avant-Garde Albums Best of 2016



 
Skeletons
Am I Home?
(Shinkoyo/Altin Village and Mine)
 
As inapplicable as the concept of "proper" is to Matt Mehlan's continually evolving experimental anything-fusion ensemble Skeletons, Am I Home? is the proper full-length studio follow-up to 2011's utterly sublime People. Calling it King Crimson-on-Afrobeat with a side of Broadcast barely scratches the surface of Skeletons' unique, bombastic explorations, but that description still works as an apt primer for the group's vast array of heavily spliced influences and masterful musicianship on Home?
 
For all their wild excursions into freeform jazz and abstract synth texture building, Skeletons are as focused on songs as complete stories here, both musically and lyrically; even moments that are jarring in their unexpected juxtaposition don't create any sense of disconnect, just dramatic tension.
 
From the fluttering machine gun drum rolls and insistent driving bass of "It's Infinite"; through the spacey afro-funk of "The City"; the vibrant, groovy progressive celestial folk jazz of "Success"; the swirling controlled chaos of frantic percussion, sweeping synths, throbbing bass and tight spine of repetitive interlocked guitar and marimba of "Isn't Infinite"; all the way past the belligerent squalling horns that introduce album closing comedown strums of "Another Week"; Matt Mehlan guides and shapes the confounding gale-force creativity of his intrepid band into sonic experiences of rare, strange beauty.
 
Am I Home? is the most consistently realized work yet by a woefully underheard group of fearless artists creating music thoroughly infused with their distinct personality.
Scott Gray