June 15, 2003

Pothole Skinny "Time Shapes the Forest Lake"

Let's talk about wonderfully strange records, shall we? This is one, for sure. This is psychedelic mind music, for sure--but it doesn't have that heavy duty drugged-out flavour, so that's a positive thing. Nope, Pothole Skinny go for a more organic trip, with such wonderful instruments as acoustic guitars, chimes, flutes, and banjos. You might be afraid of artistic overindulgence ala Elephant 6, but fear not, my friends. Their muse never leads them into the silly sound of worlds with gnomes or dragons or any of that kind of absurd "psych"-hippie vibe that others have ruined. They're lo-fi, but they're not crap, either--another plus for Pothole Skinny.

These things are indeed wonderful, but there's one major flaw with Time Shapes the Forest Lake. The only problem I have with them--and this is hard to say, because I'm criticizing one aspect of the record, and not the band itself--is the singing. They've made some really wonderful music, but the singing just takes away from their music. I've never suggested a band go all-instrumental, but Pothole Skinny probably would be better served in considering the change. The vocals just seem to be a bit out of place among the lush accompaniment. For instance, "Antique Gasoline" would make a wonderful instrumental piece, but the singing makes it so...common, so been-there, done-that, and it's disappointing, too, because I can tell they're much better than that. Indeed, it's no surprise that the instrumental numbers--such as the lovely "When Morpheus Calls For Slumber," and the downright beautiful "May-Gun Explosive Flower"--are the album's strongest songs.

As this is a debut record, some flaws are to be expected, and aside from the problematic vocals, Time Shapes the Forest Lake is a peaceful, quiet, tranquil record, one that owes more to Windham Hill or Hearts of Space than it does with Olivia Tremor Control. With a little change of direction, Pothole Skinny could produce really, really beautiful music.

--Joseph Kyle

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