https://www.album-der-woche.de/reviews/big-john-bates-und-skinners-cage-keeping-it-weird-19853

Somewhere between Neo-Folk, Country and Tim Burton, Big John Bates has made a stop with his Noirchestra and celebrates strange and twisted music on “Skinner’s Cage”.

Getting goosebumps on the first listen is special, but “All the Devils” just conjures them up. A noir-country song, which opens the album with its mantra chorus and a theremin eerily beautiful. The skeletons are already dancing in front of the inner eye and the master of ceremonies Big John Bates sits enthroned above everything else. In the chorus, voices, driven by a trance-like drumbeat, mumble the mantra that darkens the sun and lures dark figures out of their crates.

An early highlight on “Skinner’s Cage” is “Tragedia”: threatening strings go into a primitive blues and one really only waits for Tom Waits to come around the corner and set the whole thing to music. The chorus is the musical announcement of a mounting calamity, an unspecified tragedy, which is announced by stringers and singer Big John together.

Musically, many elements of country and blues are found again, but everything seems somehow morbid and bleak but in a carefree way. This carefreeness can always look back on an underlying darkness, which constantly provides for depressing moods. “Halcyon” is probably the most melancholic song on “Skinner’s Cage” and lets the listeners for the first time look behind the gray-black Noir facade. He has a cathartic character, which the band lives out again in the following “Dead Moon Night”. A very straight rock song, which reveals the well-known elements again and again by the violin appearing in the chorus and the subsequently used theremin and yet does not want to tear away from the country-noir sound of the first songs.

From many of the songs on “Skinner’s Cage” is a hypnotic effect, the primitive rhythms, coupled with the Chant songs of singer Brandy irresistibly pull further towards rabbit’s den. The music seems alien at first, mainly due to the instrumentation and the mood of the album, but you are always curious what happens next.

FINAL NOTES:

“Skinners Cage” immediately cast a spell on me. The outrageous instrumentation, the traditional blunt-edged blues and country elements embedded in gray somber stories that would perfectly match Tim Burton’s films. A great discovery for me! – Jonas Monter

An ambitious long player who wins bridgeheads into musical miles that are miles apart. A very quick-witted construct. – Marco Kampe