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From the outside looking in, Connecticut’s musical landscape can appear pretty barren. Peer a little closer, though, and you’ll find a scattered but spirited contingent of artists doing interesting work. One such act is Skeleton Yaks, also known as Wonton Death, also known as Jake Gagne. Their sound and aesthetic are as slippery and darkly funny as their alter-egos — sometimes noisy, sometimes poppy, but never boring.
On Tuesday, Gagne released their third multi-track Skeleton Yaks project, In Sausalito, “an album about rough somethings on the edge of the field, ominous and terrifying pixelated objects, [and] things you want but aren’t supposed to want in this world,” set in Sausalito, CT, “a place that may or may not exist,” according to the record’s bio. (It doesn’t — in the physical world, at least.) Gagne begins in a lush, upbeat mode that disintegrates as we move down the tracklist, starting with the starry-eyed “coctoplasmic love” and ending with a macabre, unrecognizable cover of The Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping” (the phrase “say the word death,” repeated and phased ad infinitum in Reichian fashion on Gagne’s rendition, does not appear on the original) and two minutes of a looped, warping synth arpeggio title “reboot (reboot (death convulsion)).”
Among so many other things, In Sausalito is “a breakup record about not only a romantic relationship but also a web of attachments to an idealized false self and to the endgames of other people and other politics,” Gagne wrote in an Instagram post promoting the album’s release before quoting the gender historian and scholar Jules Gill-Peterson on desire. Track two, “it won’t obey its bedtime,” is a gorgeous sweet spot, closer to honeymoon adulation than post-split despair but already cracking around the edges.
“it won’t obey” plays like an Easter egg B-side from a golden-age (pre-Merriweather) Animal Collective album, setting countertenor vocal harmonies to a bouncy synth, automated drums, and auxiliary percussion that sounds like sleigh bells. (Upon questioning, Gagne readily admits to being a Panda Bear stan).
“I think my brain tends toward two aesthetic poles,” Gagne tells The FADER: “the ecstatic/visionary and the neurotic/obsessive. This track is a good example of what happens when those wires get crossed. It’s a dream about sunken civilizations and drowned lives and optimism.”
Listen to In Sausalito below via Bandcamp. It is not yet available to stream on Spotify or Apple Music.