Skytree – Hyphae (Boltfish)



Minnesota-based producer / multi-instrumentalist Evan Snyder has spent the last ten years making electronic music, debuting his Skytree alias back in 2003 before going on to release three download-only albums on netlabels including Earstroke and Herb Recordings. This fourth album on Boltfish ‘Hyphae’ offers up Snyder’s debut physical CD release and sees him crafting a jawdropping collection of downbeat leftfield electronics that manages to be as equally exqusitely detailed as it is deeply emotionally moving. Indeed, the sleeve art depicting hand-drawn tendrils (perhaps the fungal hyphae of the title) extended over photographs over the sky at dusk prove to be a perfect metaphor for the atmosphere that’s generated here, and while there’s certainly some headspinningly intricate digital trickery going on here, it’s the integration of sampled natural sounds and acoustic instrumentation that really grounds this collection thematically.

Opening track ‘Lake Language’ certainly evokes the aforementioned dusk skies as it slowly unfurls itself over phasing, dreamlike ambient drones, only for contorted, crunching hiphop rhythms to lock down amidst a lush backdrop of swooning textures that takes in the sampled sounds of ocean waves and ice cracking, the resulting atmosphere sitting somewhere between Amon Tobin and the wide-eyed pastoral aesthetic of Kelpe. Indeed, there’s a sense of nature never really being too far from the surface conjured throughout these eleven tracks – while ‘Ice Age Trail’ sees the sampled rumble of Antarctic leopard sounds giving way to a swelling backdrop of bass-heavy analogue synths, clattering boom-bap rhythms, plucked acoustic guitar and penny whistle, ‘Morel’ sees the eerie sampled birdcall of a loon being re-shaped into the track’s melodic base as stuttering, broken rhythms crafted from woodpecker sounds add a treacherously unpredictable undercurrent to the twisted-up keyboard melodies that play above. In this case, the two additional remixes included here from Coppice Halifax and Planet Mu’s Mrs Jynx prove to be no less impressive, with the former offering up this collection’s lone concession to more club-focused rhythms with a distinctly more pulsating take on the originally more ambient-centred ‘Hearth.’ ‘Hyphae’ represents a seriously impressive debut on CD for Skytree, as well what’s easily one of the most captivating takes on the downbeat leftfield electronic genre I’ve heard in the past year. Brilliant stuff.

Chris Downton


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A dastardly man with too much music and too little time on his hands

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