We’re big fans of Skeltr - they headlined the festival in 2018 and we managed to squeeze in a show with them at the Kanteena before lockdown hit back in March 2020. So we were pretty excited in the (metaphorical) Lancaster Jazz Festival office to check out their new album, Dorje - and we were far from disappointed.
Dorje is a Tibetan word meaning ‘a ritual weapon symbolising the indestructible properties of a diamond and the irresistible force of a thunderbolt’ - which feels like a grand analogy for Craig’s explosive drumming and Sam’s soaring saxophone.
‘Cheef Beef’ opens the album - it’s a really uplifting start to the album’s journey, and it’s impossible to keep still while listening. The lyrics are really thoughtful too - when listening they provoke ideas of looking within to find happiness, and building self resilience. We think this is a massive choon: BIG, uplifting, and everything you want from an opening track.
‘Braila’ follows with a very different flavour, a bit dreamy and woozy. There’s some amazing drumming, nice squelchy fat bass sounds, and a great thick texture from the saxophone harmonies which all move through a broad cinematic landscape and build to a crazy uplifting peak. ‘Braila’ is definitely worth a listen.
The spacey, dreamy and stretched-out hazy soundscape of ‘Siren’ offers up a contrast to the previous tracks, yet still feels cohesive within the album’s scope. The track is an amazing vocal addition, featuring soulful vocals from Hayley Philippa Williams - the choice to use her voice as an instrument rather than adding in lyrics is really effective within the soothing atmosphere of the track. And ‘Kinkai’s Question’ follows, featuring some great spoken-word/rapping moments, neo-soul harmony and a bit of a chilled Thundercat vibe in the chorus.
‘Fjord’ feels more electronic than previous tracks, opening with a lazy groove and moving sax playing. The track then builds into a nice frenzy with lots of electronic zapping noises, sounding quite dark and stormy but also hopeful at the same time. ‘Nesodden’ ends the album strongly - this track moved between subtle and quiet moments, and big climactic builds. The track went to lots of different places and we kind of spun out listening to this, with minds drifting in a totally pleasing way at the end of the album’s journey.
Skeltr are great live, and manage to successfully navigate and encompass the energy of their stage performances within this album. They successfully integrate the mix of live and electronic instruments in a subtle and effective way as they forge their unique sonic space. The album packs a lot in - it runs the line from really dancey, euphoric hands-in-the-air moments to quiet and thoughtful moments, while dropping some pretty big musical climaxes along the route. There are sweet and swaggering grooves throughout and loads of thoughtful and interesting jumps and twists in the writing - both musically and sonically. Dorje is a truly great and coherent listen carried along beautifully by “indestructible" drumming and “irresistible” saxophone.
Check out our Instagram stories when Skeltr took over for a day!