Dear Nora-Skulls Example: Album Review

I had already fallen in love with this album, but something about listening to it on a drive home at dusk after a long day really clicked with me this past weekend.

“Wifi o’er the land”

Skulls Example is loosely about the insane juxtapositions that today brings.  As Katy Davidson puts it: “Skulls Example is about how our weird, techno-futuristic present juxtaposes so absurdly against the never-ending backdrop of inexorable, ancient elements.”

At least where I live, 4G LTE is everywhere.  In the 8 acres of wetland behind by childhood home, on the old highways that lead out to the obscurely shaped stretches of Rhode Island’s peninsulas.  Driving across hills and stetches of blue and green this past Sunday, I was enveloped in Davidson’s small sounding, rural sound world and simultaneously accessing twitter to see the Newport Jazz Festival’s photos from George Clinton’s closing set.

A festival founded in 1954, honoring one of the broadest genres of the day, the Newport Jazz Festival itself even fits into this theme.  This is a place where Chicago free jazz veterans Henry Threadgill and Wadada Leo Smith get called “the sound of the future” while a younger group of musicians are playing standards that pre-date the birth dates of Threadgill and Smith next door.  It’s fun but disorienting to experience George Clinton’s artful excess a day removed from Trio3’s spare improvisational style.

It’s absurd that I can feel the intimacy of the small Portland home where Davidson tracked their vocals, while looking at the sunset over Newport Beach in the corner of my eye and the photos that will be used to commodify my nostalgia in 50 years front and center.

This is what Davidson is talking about when they craft a landscape out of phrases like “where the Morning Glories twine around my door at early morn” or “deserted is the word for all this wonderful nothing” then flatten it all with a reference to today.

There’s the layering effect of instagram/screens/television–the distortion that comes with communication over these forms: “Took a photo of a photo and I got in trouble;” “Sunset in the video game and I’m walking on the beach…it’s all within reach;” “last night I watched a movie about the Oregon trail.”  Davidson presents this world through a critical lens, certainly, but not in the vein of direct disdain: “Simulation Feels Real” she says–but what else is she going to say, there’s no going back under late capitalism.

On Skulls Example, the pastoral tone and lyrical imagery make for a believable simulation, but just as our technological world can feel at once unimaginably beautiful and utterly horrifying, Davidson’s intimate styling has an ounce of despair at every turn.

-Donovan Burtan


“Sunset on Humanity”





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