Departing from the grunge growl of Percolator, Cork man Dean O’Sullivan has spent the last while brewing up his own fine blend of post wave bliss. Now recording under the name Skinny Downers, Into The Void is the second offering from the fledgling freshman.
In some ways it’s a departure from January’s Isn’t It EP. The pop undertones have been pushed aside, so too the acoustic guitars. What has remained is O’Sullivan’s fondness for grandiose soundscapes. His ability to capture mood and express it with carefully chosen instrumentation and panning is a trait that can not be taught. Creative exploration and a decaffeinated approach to anything that resembles a chorus has led to a finely produced follow up that is easy to digest.
EP opener ‘Breeze’ is pervaded with psychedelic guitar swirls, pulling you further and further in as each note bends on the fret board. Meanwhile the bass takes a backseat, instead opting to sit comfortably on the kick drum stabs. As the percussion rattles around, nicely filling any dead space, O’ Sullivan’s baritone vocal is perfectly suited to his creation. ‘Little Shadow’ could be a lost gem from the Factory Records era. It’s coldwave approach – again, avoiding any sort of chorus.
‘Hold Direction’ highlights O’Sullivan’s knack for creative melody and stubborn approach to structure. Again, when you expect a chorus, you are swerved. In this case it’s a layered vocal, “they hold, they hold, they hold direction” that takes position as a hook but is quickly disbanded, instead replaced by a cosmic crossfire of effect-laden hi-hats and keyboards. Climaxing via soundtrackville in four short bars. Intense but firmly and smartly paced.
‘Do You Still Say You Do’ takes the return bus to soundtrackville, stopping along the way to pick up Thurston, the ultimate guide to panning and a copy of single note sustain: time to fill the washing machine. Closing the EP is the epic 15 minuter ‘This Bet Is Long Term’. A brave effort by any feat, O’ Sullivan again pays tribute to the days of Kraut while branching into minimal post-punk. The kick drum is set to heartbeat, the bass is set to dirge, whie the remaining instrumentation sits comfortably, direct to droney island. Just as the gorgeous 4-note keyboard tone comes to fruition around the 4:00 minute mark, O’Sullivan opts to sink ship. What follows is 7 minutes of silence before the warm glow of the organ resurfaces. A single hand clap smothered in effects plays the snare as the one / one-one strum plays the kick in a Spector-like rhythm. “It’s over, it’s over, we wait for time to test us“, advises O’Sullivan in a haze engulfed preach that takes us to the end.
There is no doubt that Skinny Downers is a serious departure from Percolator. In this case however O’Sullivan has the goods to back it up. More experimental in nature than his first offering, Into the Void is proof that you don’t need a big chorus, or a four bar hook (as Paul McCartney would have you believe) to write a great song. Placing focus on emotion and conveying that emotion with sound as opposed to melody isn’t as easy at it may seem. From what we’ve heard from Skinny Downers, the proof is in the pudding. O’Sullivan’s solo venture might just be the best thing for him as he seems to have found his stride.