Red Centre hip-hopsters Skank & Shake have taken an unusual yet effective approach to releasing their music. They realised early on that, being a duo from the remote desert city of Alice Springs while working in a genre that is by definition a mostly urban preserve, they needed something special to crack it in a saturated national market – something that would make them stand out amongst the flotsam of modern music production. What they came up with is truly inspired – if you want to stand out amongst the crowd, don’t try and fit in.
So – in order to not fit in, the usual strictures and structures of the music market had to make way for something different. The idea? Make a perpetual album with no defined structure and no defined ending – the gift that keeps on giving – and so was born The Long Road Ahead Part I, the first instalment in this work-in-perpetuity, released in April 2016. This approach allows the duo to contemporaneously document their growth and learning as they progress on their musical odyssey ad infinitum. It will soon be time to release Part II in the series and from it, the single Embers, which was released this week independently and available exclusively on Triple J Unearthed.
Embers is a narrative on the particular spiritualism, introspection and insight that the Central Australian desert can bring on a cold night out under the stars, with a responsible amount of enhancement from wherever you choose to get it – altered states combined with the vastness of the country and the clearness of the night skies making for a unique clarity that anyone who has spent time under the awning of stars that enshrouds the Centralian desert can understand.
The track Embers evokes that elevated mental and spiritual state and sets the scene from the beginning, with a spacey and lightly glitched intro dissipating into a smooth, deep flow that needs no vocal aggression – that is not what this song is about. The slightly dissociative feel at the start dissolves into a relaxed but purposeful journey to growth and enlightenment – perhaps to reach whatever one recognises as their nirvana. It is a personal song in the sense that all such journeys are personal, but anyone open to such concepts can relate.
And speaking of conceptuality, perhaps nirvana isn’t where one’s spiritual journey should end, but rather is simply a milestone where one can relax a while and take in the view until it’s time to grow and learn some more, much like the perpetual magnum opus that will be The Long Road Ahead series by these artists.
This crew can cut it and serve it up as fresh as the best of them – they aren’t so much punching above their weight, rather they have a cheeky finger on the scales, pushing themselves slowly but surely into the heavyweight division.
Having now released this single, the Long Road Ahead Part II is due for release in September 2017, to be followed by a national tour. The duo have shared the stage with some heavy hitters in recent times, including the Hilltop Hoods. At Wide Open Space Festival this year, not only did they ably command the Dome for their own set – Skank aided and abetted Caiti Baker and James Mangohig on the Wide Stage during the Sietta Sound System set to a rapturous audience. This crew can cut it and serve it up as fresh as the best of them – they aren’t so much punching above their weight, rather they have a cheeky finger on the scales, pushing themselves slowly but surely into the heavyweight division.
We are eagerly awaiting the September 2017 release of The Long Road Ahead Part II and whichever direction Skank & Shake take the concept from there, but in the meantime, head on over to Triple J Unearthed for a listen to the current single Embers by clicking the link: