- "I've always been fascinated with rhythms," Bryan Müller told Matt Unicomb last year. "It's the thing I start with when I do a track—I always have to have a beat running." All of Müller's Skee Mask records since the project debuted in 2014 have been about drums—breakbeats that float, flutter and bounce around sumptuous soundscapes, in the vein of some of the most atmospheric techno from the '90s. With Compro, his second album as Skee Mask, Müller pulls back slightly from the '90s breakbeat sound he's known for. This time he dips into ambient music, IDM and jungle with an atmospheric lean, creating some of the most powerful yet restrained cuts in his catalogue.
Breakbeats are still important to Müller's music, but they're not always the focal point on Compro, which has some of the melodic sense of Müller's other project, SCNTST. Choral vocals and thick ambience partially veil the breakbeat science on "Soundboy Ext." "Session Add" hints at the sweeter side of IDM, and the music is boldly emotional without coming off sentimental. The fleet-footed dash of "Via Sub Mid" is awash in foamy pads. The drums on "Dial 724" hit hard, but they have a trampoline-like spring.
Last year's Ilian Skee Series showed Müller exploring ideas beyond techno, and he continues down that path here. The blitzing drum pattern on "Kozmic Flush" cribs from the atmospheric jungle of artists like Alaska and LTJ Bukem, while the growling basslines and crisp drums on "Dial 724" echo techstep. Then there's "Flyby VFR," which might be the best Skee Mask track yet. The drums flutter, and occasionally glitch, over plaintive synth melodies and piano trills that call out like birds passing overhead. The drums push it forward, but your ear is drawn to the gorgeous melodic work that Müller has been sharpening with each new Skee Mask release.
Compro's ambient parts are nearly as absorbing as the rhythm sections. The opener, "Cerroverb," features heavy-duty dynamics. Its bass notes occasionally jolt the peace of Müller's misty backdrop, made from reversed samples and gentle pads. On "VLI," an oscillating chord progression carries the weight, with only pitter-patter percussion for company. It's here where you can hear his composition style improving: where an older ambient track like "Everest" could feel like a neat diversion, "VLI" and "Cerroverb" offer more to chew on, carrying the tension and detail of his drum tracks into an ambient framework. Combined with the new emphasis on melody on the rest of the album, it makes for a more well-rounded full-length than his last, Shred.
Still, one of the most quietly stunning moments on Compro comes at the end, with "Calimance (Delay Mix)." It's a basic Skee Mask track—some drums and some pads—but it highlights his ability to make even these fundamentals feel poignant. There's something beautiful yet elusive about the way the drums delicately dance in and out of earshot. Few artists can make percussion sing the way Skee Mask does.
02. Session Add
04. 50 Euro To Break Boost
05. Via Sub Mids
06. Soundboy Ext.
07. Dial 274
09. Flyby VFR
10. Muk FM
11. Kozmic Flush
12. Calimance (Delay Mix)