Music

My favorite 100 albums of all time: #79 ("Ekstasis")

Nicky Skopelitis "Ekstasis" album cover On the off chance that anyone is actually playing along at home, I feel bad about listing records that you can't easily find on Spotify, Google Play, or other digital music services. Yet, like Prison, I can't really leave Ekstasis off the list.

Ekstasis is in a similar vein with Hallucination Engine, being a heady mix of funk, jazz, rock, world music, and the kitchen sink if it adds anything. The album is credited to guitarist Nicky Skopelitis, but the cast of characters contributing looks a lot like a Material album.

Bill Laswell looms large on this one, as well as bassist Jah Wobble. For example, Wobble dominates "Sanctuary" – the fifth track on the album. Wobble's driving bass and Bachir Attar's ghaita are the featured players on this track, with Skopelitis' guitar contributions playing more of a supporting role than taking the spotlight.

The album starts off heavy with bone-shaking bass and tablas keeping the beat. Wobble nearly steals the show until Skopelitis comes in with a grinding guitar bit, and then a 12-string fill. Even though this is under Skopelitis' name, he doesn't shy away from giving everybody time front and center on the album.

"One Eye Open" is a Laswell/Skopelitis-written track that would have fit right in on Hallucination Engine. It digs in with a strong bass and drum groove, with a bit of gating on the drums giving the whole affair an almost straight-forward rock feel until hitting you with a wall of sitar, berimbau, chatan/ghatam, and organ.

The next track, "Heresy" is a bit more guitar-oriented, with Skopelitis breaking out the slide guitar as well as standard six-string. (He uses sitar, slide, electric 12-string, a baglama, dobro, and standard six-string guitar at various points on the album.) "Heresy" peaks with a massive crescendo of guitar before winding down over more delicate and intricate string-wrangling.

"Witness" has Skopelitis busting out the entire arsenal on one track. Dobro, baglama, and six- and twelve-string guitars. They all get a turn, plus a lovely violin interlude over some steady but interesting drumming by Jaki Liebezeit.

The Hammond B3 organ really shines on "Telling Time." It does equal time with Skopelitis' searing guitar on this track.

At first listen, there's not a lot of variety on Ekstasis. It's an entirely instrumental album that's built largely around interesting bass, percussion, and guitar motifs. You have to give it a few spins to really distinguish between the tracks. It's perfect for background music (I've written more than a few college papers and articles with this going) but it's also rewarding in the foreground.

I find it really disappointing that Skopelitis hasn't built up more of a catalog in the 23 years since Ekstasis was released. He's played with a ton of bands, but his solo output is minimal. The worst thing I can say about Ekstasis is there's not more of it! You, too, may find yourself greedy for more after a few listens.

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