Matt Skellenger was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Matt has been composing, performing, recording, and teaching in Colorado for 30 years. He earned a B.A. in Music from Metro State University in 2002 where he studied with the late Ron Miles. Ron was an original member of the Skellenger group from 2006-2014, and he is featured on the group’s first 3 albums. Subspace Transmission is the seventh album released by Matt Skellenger, and it is dedicated to Ron Miles.
‘XIX (Minorly Hungary)’ is a multi-layered track built around two repeating phrases interspersed with bass and steel pedal guitar breaks. The drumming throughout is terrific, as is the sound from the horns making up the front line – a vibrant opening number. ‘Close’ begins with a clear, slow trumpet sound backed by bass. This is a nicely paced melody driven number that momentarily drifts into something different with the addition of an electronica sound. ‘XXIII (Not A Twin Prime)’ is another tune with a good horn front line but it is the use of the steel pedal guitar that gives this number its distinctive sound. I also very much enjoyed the percussion from Andy Skellenger, which added another harmonic to the acoustics of the number.
A good, strong bass line underpins ‘Fleckin’, which contrast well with the guitar work from Glenn Taylor and the crisp drumming from Dave Miller. Adam Bartczak’s rich trombone tone sounds great on this jazz infused world music sounding track. ‘Santiago’ carries on the world music theme with its Latin vibe and feel. The horns are punchy in their delivery while Matt Skellenger rounds out the sound on the electric bass – definitely a potential standout album track. ‘Weezie and Willow’ has an Asian touch about it with electric bass and percussion driving the central theme, which I really enjoyed.
‘Eve’ has a very good adult contemporary music/cinematic feel about it. The music moves between a quiet calm to something more stirring and emotive. The melody is held by the horns with support from the guitars, and the drums of Dave Miller. There is a nice crescendo section in the latter stages of the tune with added electronica that does not sound out of place. ‘Lions Tooth’ is another tune with a strong bass line over-which the horn led melody is played. A good mid-tempo number where the notes are given space and the percussion keeps everything ticking over.
‘Connectivity’ has a terrific variation in sound dynamics, which never settle on one specific musical style. This is a very good example of a multi-layered composition that needs to be listened to more than once to appreciate just how well it is crafted and produced. ‘DT’ changes the tonal colour again with a purposeful percussion beat contrasting and an electronic soundscape that floats above. The horns, when they are used, sound as if the notes are breathing from the instrument rather than being pushed – all very atmospheric.
The album’s title track, ‘Subspace Transmission (Ron Miles, We Love and Thank You) feat. Ron Miles’ opens with a beautiful solo from Ron Miles with tabla backing. Again, it is the variety of the tonal palette and how it is all pulled together that captured my imagination. Everything is layered in such a way that you hear all without getting lost in the myriad of sounds – to me this comes across as very accomplished writing. That brings the album to the closing track, ‘Jesus, I Just Want to Go to Sleep’, a simple sounding slow number with two guitars creating a spiritually moving melody with contrasting tones.
Subspace Transmission is one of those albums that does not, or perhaps refuses to be defined by genre. The jazz styling underpins the album as a whole but it is the touches of world music and jazz fusion that make it a fascinating listen. The coalescing of trumpets/cornets and the trombone to create a third sound is intriguing; the brightness of the tabla and the elongated sounds of the pedal steel guitar both add something to the mix not often heard in a jazz led composition; and the layers of tonal texture and colour all make for a most interesting aural experience.
Subspace Transmission is available for digital download and on CD through Bandcamp.
Since posting this review Matt Skellenger has been contact to clarify a couple of things that I was hearing.
All of the “electronica” sounds you are hearing are trumpet or cornet played through effects pedals where Matt Reid then layers the sounds with looping and manipulates them with effects pedals.
I do a lot of two handed tapping on the bass, so whenever you hear two parts at once, they are played at the same time on the bass. I use this style on most of the tunes, but on ‘Close’, ‘The Lion’s Tooth’, and ‘Jesus, I Just Want to Go to Sleep’, I use this style throughout the whole track. So the last track is actually solo bass with both parts being played at the same time instead of two Guitars.Matt Skellenger
Musicians: Matt Skellenger – electric bass; Adam Bartczak – Trombone, conch shell; Dave Miller – drums; Matt Reid – trumpet, cornet; Andy Skellenger – cajon, tabla; Glenn Taylor – pedal steel guitar; Ron Miles – trumpet, cornet on Tracks 1, 10 and 11.
Tracklist: 1. XIX (Minorly Hungary) feat. Ron Miles. 2. Close. 3. XXIII (Not A Twin Prime). 4. Fleckin. 5. Santiago. 6. Weezie and Willow. 7. Eve. 8. The Lion’s Tooth. 9. Connectivity. 10. DT. 11. Subspace Transmission (Ron Miles, We Love and Thank You) feat. Ron Miles. 12. Jesus, I Just Want to Go to Sleep.
All Compositions written by Matt Skellenger except tracks 2 and 12 written by Ron Miles, and track 7 written by Matt Reid.