The Wire reviews Ellipsis, by Skist
The Wire, Issue 228, February 2003
Skist : Ellipsis
By DAVID ELLIOTT
Tokyo-based duo Skist are Samm Bennett and Haruna Ito. An early practitioner of electronic percussion, Bennett came up through New York's post-No Wave and Improv scenes, where he drummed with the likes of John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, Marc Ribot and others. Moving to Japan in 1996, he hooked up with sampler processor and vocalist Ito as GoNoGoNoGo. Since they wisely changed their name to Skist, they've gigged in Tokyo and elsewhere, left recorded traces on Mille Plateaux'sClicks + Cuts, FatCat's No Watches/No Maps and Improvised Music From Japan compilations, and released two very limited edition CDs, Ready Question and Jook Parachute. Ellipsis is their debut album proper.
Bennett and Ito may both be from Improv, but Ellipsis is a tightly structured, quasi-accessible collection of nine songs with a skewed, even skewered pop bent. For all Bennett's electronic percussion preferences and Ito's sampler processing, the duo's sense of restraint plus Ito's wonderful voice ensure that their digital methods serve the songs, rather than the reverse.
Each track sets itself clear goals, sparsely distributed loops and effects establishing a slightly disquieting mood, with (off)beats added, often in real time. Their songs are realised with the utmost economy, from an electronic stress fracture stitched with pin-metal beats perhaps, or a pulsing line of rhythm and a counterforce of near melodic accents held together by latent tension. Whether keeping to Bennett's pinging beats or going against the grain, Ito's measured, even austere voice strikes a melancholy tone that sometimes recalls Charles Hayward's vocals in This Heat. And Bennett's lyrics are similarly mysterious, if not surreal. "You'll walk into a room full of children/You'll realise they can't see you/You'll watch them one by one jump out the window," Ito sings on "Prediction"; and tracks such as "Trace Me", "Inkling" and "Ovum Sway" further scramble the Skist code.