SKILL 7 STAMINA 12 – ROBOTICS WITH STRINGS
1. Koning Willem III
2. 3rd Disco From Home
3. Robotics With Strings
4. Brie And Bones
8. The Horror
9. Museum Of Surfaces
11. Make New Friends
12. Spirit Of The Age
REVIEWS OF ASP003
Like all great art-punk groups, not one of the members of Skill 7 Stamina 12 looks like they belong in a group. They look like IT technicians, back room civil servants, or social workers. While the post-punk revival rages, rampant with the naive irony of misplaced nostalgia, Skill 7 Stamina 12 are all the more valuable. The restrained virtuosity on display here creates a tense but open musical texture, particularly between Ashley Marlowe’s insistent, cerebral percussion and Nathaniel Mellors’ jazz-punk bass playing, over which Dan Fox stabs clean cutting guitar figures. Maaike Schoorel’s tendency to revert to her native Dutch in her thinly plaintive and mannered vocalising completes this intriguing package. Although comparisons with early 80s groups spring to mind, Robotics With Strings is intelligent and accomplished enough to find its own voice beyond the pastiche peddled in post-punk’s name elsewhere.
Nick Southgate, The Wire
For some, ignorance truly is bliss — they adopt this ideal and lead very successful lives. You could say that Robotics With Strings was written by an ignorant band; Skill 7 Stamina 12 really have no idea what will sell, and demonstrate no sense of history whatsoever. That’s pretty impressive for one of the best post-punk bands around.
It’s almost as if S7S12 came up with their sound by accident, founding it on ignorance and instinct rather than doing any homework about the genre’s pioneers — or perhaps they just emerged from a time machine. Their approach to simplicity, both musically and with the ensemble, suggests dingy, rat-infested studio-style creativity rather than flash gear or engineering, and is celebrated as their most important tool. A clean Quasi-funk/jazz guitar riff opens “Koning Willem III”, expanding into a full band backing a clever slam poet. Dutch vocalist Maiike Schoorel (the rest of the band members are English) whispers a nonsense message about King Willem’s seven meter-long flea; it quickly grows to a lilting falsetto. What is she saying? Who cares, as long as her cute, sweet voice is attached to the message. The minimal rhythm section holds down the fort with a mixed up beat that can’t decide if it’s hip-hop, rock or something from Latin America. “3rd Disco From Home” is pretty much what its title describes — an instrumental disco tune — but it isn’t filler: the band works just as hard here, bass and guitar fighting for control of the melody while Ashley Marlowe keeps the multiple tempos steady, allowing his hyperactive style to break out now and then. “Robotics With Strings” pays homage to Fugazi in its guitar riff, owes a great deal to Art Blakey’s flamboyant drumming and gives a big nod to Portishead in the vocals, but the band blends these diverse styles easily, giving each member a chance to shine without hogging the spotlight.
The only “I’ve heard this before” track is “Sofa”, which smacks of early New Order, but Skill 7 Stamina 12 do it twenty times better than anyone out there, even ending on the “Everything’s Gone Green” chord. “Brie and Bones”‘ male vocals (“I will dance with my Marie / leave my brie and bones”) work in tandem with Schoorel’s eerie siren-song harmonies, recalling the uneasy artsiness of Bauhaus’s Sky’s Gone Out. Again, it’s a case of near mistaken identity, but S7S12 add enough of their own voice to make it unique.
S7S12 clearly stand out, but it’s hard to tell which trait sets them apart from the herd. Their originality? Their enthusiasm? Their innocence? The fact that a bunch of English guys convinced a sexy Dutch girl to sing for them? The answer is all of the above, and more. The band excels in a bloated market of Gang of Four wannabes, and have earned a spot on my list of new favorites.
Once more, raise your glass to the Brits — they know what this genre is about.
Dave Madden, Splendid Magazine