Skommel is the debut album from Queens, New York’s Imaginary Tricks. Building upon a lifelong affair with guitar noise and a love for buttery R&B classics, these songs are reflections of psych-tinged rock and pop obsessions, abused by years of a relentless search for something stranger, stronger, and free. Imaginary Tricks takes an experimental approach to delivering a familiar thump; it’s a heartbeat, with multiple layers of complex sounds, mired in soul and hidden lyrical depth. Welcome to the world of Mike Visser, the world of Imaginary Tricks.
It wasn’t so much opening a map of music and dropping a finger on a destination as it was a methodical and sometimes arduous journey to where Visser is now. It started with the Sacramento, California band Frank Jordan – a tightly wound rock trio where Visser learned to push his vocal range, the power of a good hook, what touring felt like in shit weather, and what it’s like to open for some greats (Grandaddy, Dr. Dog, Jimmy Eat World). He just needed one more turn, one more journey into the abyss – traversing fear, self-realization, and what feeling truly alone was all about – before heading back into the world to share his discoveries.
So here we are now. Imaginary Tricks is another journey for Visser, but this one feels different. Not that the past didn’t matter – it did – but the future holds so much more, and the new set of songs featured on Skommel lays it out for you to follow. It’s a trip not so succinct that you can make your mind up quickly, instead out there in the distance, just far enough that you have time to decide on what it all means.
The songs on Skommel are poignant and varied, from the surefire pop hit of “Night Owl,” which captures the universal feeling of staying up at night and worrying yourself to bits, to the rugged and rhythmic “Lights Out,” which addresses the distribution of wealth in the Western world, to the disarming “No Ordinary Guy,” where Visser details his father’s immigration from South Africa to the United States.
Listen closely, and you’re inside the room with him, in the eye of a storm whipped up by whatever inclination strikes: whistles and wah-wahs, Doppler-effect vocals, and alien Wurlitzer keyboarding. Harlan Muir joins Visser for his captivating live shows, contributing alchemy of sounds, combining keys and tape delay.
Much of Skommel was drafted and recorded at Japam Studio in Brooklyn. Conjuring up a romantic picture of a dank and dark place where the songs were pounded out night after night until they took shape would be a cool notion; but Imaginary Tricks songs are written in Visser’s head – one can only imagine what goes on in there – and then sketched out here in the real world for us to hear. Can colors, thoughts, dreams, and sideways conversations be translated into words and music? After listening to Skommel, it just might seem possible.