[Must-Read / Sticky] Track-by-Track // Skyjelly – Blank Panthers / Priest, Expert or Wizard (Revisited)

We’re celebrating 5th anniversary of the release of Blank Panthers / Priest, Expert or Wizard – Skyjelly’s debut! Physical is long sold out, but you can grab digital copies and/or watch a stream of the album via Vapor Memory.

This began as a random surprise, when a Twitter friend of a friend sent me a Bandcamp link after I shared the somnambulent William Basinski track I was drifting off to. Sure, I was immersed in the most vaporous of ambient excursions, but I was intrigued by the raw boldness of the presentation, as seen above. I saw the cover art, the label, and the band name and thought, this is probably my kind of thing, even though it’s likely nothing like Basinski’s fragile ambient drone sculptures. – Optimistic Underground

Quite how to describe Blank Panthers is definitely a challenge. Taking elements of ambient, drone, shoegaze, psychedelica and indie rock, the release consists of looped, hallucinatory soundscapes which rip up the rulebook and defy any clear label. As if not wanting to encourage too much though on the matter, opener ‘Sixes’ throws you in at the deep end. While the temptation is to grasp for threads of familiarity amidst the novel sound, the listener quickly finds that if they stop thrashing and submit to the flow, they are taken up by the current and carried along. – Various Small Flames

Side 1: Blank Panthers

Recorded with Dave Auchenbach (Lightning Bolt, Small Factory) completely live in the dairy


Opening track ‘Sixes’ is a pretty instant winner of multilayered psychedelia. Looped claps, drums, and shakers craft a fiery groove and rugged guitars interleave slyly. Echoed and barely intelligible vocals latch around the repetition for a while, then at three minutes a searing guitar solo melts your face right off. Think a Butthole Surfers’ wig out executed with William Onyeabor’s lo-fi funk aesthetic – The Quietus / Tristan Bath

Song of the day pick by Joseph Aleo

So darn good – The Squib


There’s a distinct, but faded “Sympathy For The Devil” simmer on the balk half of “Acosta” – Raven Sings the Blues

‘Acosta’ is more laid back, sounding like a combination of The Stone Roses and Aero Flynn – Various Small Flames


Occupies the trippy end of the spectrum – Various Small Flames


The standout track, however, must be ‘Krilltastica’; a slow burning, moody track which benefits from some fantastic guitar work which brilliantly spans the gap between psychedelic and jazz, accompanied by some soulful, yearning vocals and almost noirish percussion…it’s laden with atmosphere and feeling – Dayz of Purple and Orange

Can’t Take My Mind

The side is rounded off with ‘Can’t take my mind’, another melancholic number that defies categorisation – flashes of kraut guitar, shuffling rhythms and layered vocals all mixed to produce a dense melange of colour and sound – Dayz of Purple and Orange

Side 2: Priest, Expert or Wizard

Commentary by Rick “Skyjelly” Jones

Subway Rider

This is one from the ‘recorded live in studio’ series (heretofore referred to as RLIS). We got together and recorded this after a trip to New York. I love Dave’s drums on this one – it sets the whole mood. Earlier that week, I’d met someone on the street with a huge python around his neck. He had rescued her after she was abandoned on the sidewalk. She was dehydrated but he nursed her back to health and let me ‘wear’ her around my shoulders for a while. Her name is Athena. If you’ve never held a large snake, I would recommend it. They’re very warm and snuggly…

Has a nice psychedelic / Daevid Allen edge to it – anothercultland

Attention Spam

Also RLIS – this was our Zappa-meets-Pavement thing, although I doubt we were thinking about that at the time. For those in the know, we also refer to those as our Dabs sessions (for reasons that are obvious to us).

Catherine’s Rabbi

Two things were happening when this one was coming together. First, I heard a random Catherine Wheel song on the radio that day (Crank, perhaps) and secondly, I had been watching my partner’s animated film called Chronicles of a Professional Eulogist which featured an enigmatic Rabbi. Luckily for Skyjelly, the animator – Sarah Jane Lapp – made a video for the song that fits it perfectly. With this one we were trying for a different soundscape than what we’d just been doing.

Orange And Blue

Two of my favorite colors and two of my favorite colors together. That’s one part of the story. The other was a Dylan biography a friend gave me and the lyrics are inspired by a few of the best quotes. The bible making no sense, painting my walls – it all made sense together. The recording was done pretty much live and I think is made by Scott’s spooky background vocals.

Watch Out

One of my favs and a rebuttal to the cult of safety that seems to be widespread in the US. ‘There’s danger around every corner’ and all that. This was an early EARLY one – before there really was a Skyjelly and Scott and I were messing around at the local cable TV station. This is also an ode to letting go and not giving a fuck about any of that. The bluesy coda is Scott improvising and nicely counters the frantic first part.

All Around Me

I was at a summer party and remember texting someone feverishly and smiling. It’s a love song. Or more of a longing song. I had a version of it that was just ok but Scott did some editing that made more sense and added vocals that literally (lit’ralie) made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I first heard it.

Down The Road

Recorded studio jam at an open house party. I think it was for the Seekonk Artist’s Network, of which Sarah Jane and I are members. Plastic cups of wine and kids running. That’s all I remember…

Headphone Jack

Very early solo jam. One of the noisy ones that came out well and is always fun to play. When I was writing the lyrics, I was thinking about Neil Young and spaceships or Jesus coming to take all of us away. It has a kind of triumphant, sounding-of-the-trumpets vibe to it.

That’s Where The Modern Is

I honestly can’t remember if we recorded this in the home studio or in the mill, but this song always makes me think of Fall River and the Bad Company cover band rehearsing next door. I grew up Catholic and the first time I was forced to go to confession (and it was always forced) I was daydreaming in the box (what’s it called?) and the priest yelled at me and told me to pay attention. I wasn’t bored at all – actually, I was terrified and ‘spacing out’ was the way I handled the stress. All of which has little to do with the song, except that it does – or at least one of the lines. Modern? I don’t know. What’s that?