When Daniel Higgs joined the fray of Swedish noise outfit The Skull Defekts on 2011’s Peer Amid album, he brought with him a great beard and perfekt post-punk intensity, without making them sound like Lungfish. It was a perfect marriage, and that record ended up being their best to date.
The good news is Higgs is back for The Skull Defekts’ latest full-length, Dances In the Dreams of the Known Unknown, a record that’s about as loose and unwieldy as its title. That’s a compliment. It’s an album filled with experimental ear candy that doesn’t skimp on the rock-and-roll crust. And it again solidifies the band as Sweden’s answer to Sonic Youth and Wire.
“It Started With a Light” and “King of Misinformation” both plod in militant repetition. That doesn’t mean they’re stiff or stuffy—the guitars remain properly squirmy and jump high in the mix. And “Awaking Dream” offers more of a meditative state, as Higgs drops open-ended thoughts on relativity over a mechanical beat. That song effectively precedes the blistering riff of “The Known Unknown,” which moves stoically like a tornado underneath tribal drums. The highlight of this taut nine-song set, “Venom,” takes the cerebral thwack of hardcore and swirls it with the icy robotics of industrial music.
Not many bands in recent memory have been able to combine noise and otherworldly sonics with the sweat and hot breath of punk rock. The Skull Defekts have mastered it, boiled it down and resurrected it. For the sake of humanity, here’s hoping it burrows its way into more ears.