Swedish post-punk collective Skull Defekts have accomplished the rare feat of crafting a sound that melds jagged, abrasive guitar noise with spiritual undertones. It's possible that the band's astral projections are heightened greatly with the inclusion of Lungfish-pedigreed vocalist Daniel Higgs, whose shamanistic presence has made itself known in some way on most of Skull Defekts' albums following their earliest releases. Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown, the band's fourth album and third with Higgs, is a hypnotic, churning collection of droning grooves augmented by scratchy guitar squall and spacy percussion, Higgs dropping in on a few songs to cast vocal spells in a frenzied growl. It's an odd confluence of styles, the grating no wave guitar skronk of "Pattern of Thoughts" coexisting with a nearly drum circle-like barrage of gooey percussion and mantra-like vocals about magic rituals. Disparate stylistic wavelengths gel with unexpected clarity throughout the album, as with the rubbery industrial bassline and hippie commune hand drums and chimes of "King of Misinformation." The song sounds like an imagined world where early Nine Inch Nails meet up with the Congos at Black Ark Studio, collaborating on something equal parts ugly and hopeful. The band deals in plenty of kosmiche synth tones as well, as on standout cut "Awaking Dream," which sees Higgs speaking a poetic vision of blurred reality over a growing din of shaky tape manipulation and synth drones. Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown is an album best experienced while not trying too hard to dissect its intentions or strange combinations. The various elements of grueling, confused rock nihilism and clear-headed spirituality result in some new kind of cosmic punk, existing on a strange galactic plane somewhere between chaos and enlightenment.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas