Carey Mercer's solo project, Blackout Beach, has been dormant since the release of his debut (Light Flows the Putrid Dawn) in 2004. That's not to say that he hasn't kept busy with other things... In that time, Frog Eyes has released two astounding albums & one EP, in addition to touring the world more than once. Mercer also started a side project, Swan Lake, with friends Dan Bejar & Spencer Krug. Somehow in the midst of it all, he's found time to write & record an epic new Blackout Beach full-length. At the risk of seeming overly hyperbolic, we'd like to formally proclaim that it's his most dense, rewarding, and frankly best work to date.
Skin of Evil is a song cycle based upon a character, Donna, and her past and present lovers. Though, as Mercer stresses in his own (highly recommended) blog, "I think my albums always get mis-represented. Skin of Evil is not so much about 'Donna', as it is about my own attempt to just stick to something, and not veer off into the nebulous domains of 'fractured social commentary.' I think that in this sense Skin of Evil is a moderate success." Over the course of it's ten songs, Skin of Evil does suceed in sticking to it's story, which is set against a dark backdrop that manages to reference proto-punk icons Pere Ubu & the textural/dense recent Scott Walker works. That's to say it's a wholly unique listen; one that's highly listenable, and yet challenging (in the best sense of each word).
Skin of Evil is currently available to pre-order here. Those that opt to pre-order the LP will also receive a Skin of Evil poster.
We've had several comments about the striking painting that adorns the sleeve, which was painted by Vladimir Kandelaki. Again, Carey wrote at some length about this at his blog, but Kandelaki lives & works in Georgia, and was incredibly generous to allow the use of the painting for this record. To see more of his work, visit http://www.kandelakiv.com/.
Our friends Dan Bejar and Glenn Donaldson shared their thoughts on Skin of Evil. Read on below...
“I believe Skin of Evil is the best record I will hear this year, but let’s not get into that.
- A reference for something as singular would certainly combine goofy American babbler music (Jerry Lee Lewis/Dennis Quaid) with the highest, most harrowing modernist Euro nightmare (‘The Drift’). By this I mean there can be no frame of reference, for these two things have never met before, and external forces work hard to make sure they never do. Yet somehow the sonic space created for this set of singing happened, feels familiar, and doesn’t give me the willies. Maybe it’s because Scott Walker has never expressed interest in the traditions of rock & roll guitar, and unlike J.L.L., Carey is not a pervert/showman…
- I'll make no bones, I enjoy the sound of people singing like this. I even like the sound of people talking like this. I also think that this is the best record Carey's been involved with. Note: how good it sounds when Carolyn & Megan chime in!
- Maybe it's about a girl, about salvation's undoing through romantic love, wreckage of this kind…No matter, the important thing is that this is the first time I've REALLY heard theatrics AND atmospherics in a record, and such an abundance of both. One exception is Roxy Music’s Avalon, which this record reminds me of if only for how incredibly well you can (thankfully) hear every last thing. And though Bryan Ferry’s version of control and release are slightly different than Carey’s, Skin of Evil is more just different lyrical concerns, which we’ll here call “worldview.”
- One last thing about theatrics and atmospherics: they are at war (did I already say that?). Theatrics (individual) vs. Atmospherics (the universe) seems pretty straightforward to me as a life model…
I keep thinking about this when listening to Skin of Evil, though I'm not sure if this is what the record's about.
Skin of Evil addresses panic in the face of dark nature, being fucked over constantly to the point of almost death (and then maybe death) by higher powers, like Gods, the jailer (or whoever holds the keys), your local PTA, etc., and finally the possibility that you have a small hand in it, this, your doom, a ditch in the rain you don't just somehow fall into."
– Dan Bejar, Vancouver, BC
– Glenn Donaldson (contributed to Stereogum.com)