The first time I heard All Nite Skate’s debut EP some two years ago I was blown away. Here was a band living in the same city as me that not only played music that I like quite a bit, but instantly triggered my geeky superfan impulses the same way many of my actual favorite bands (read: bands I support for reasons aside from proximity) have over the years. I felt saved, sub-culturally speaking. Someone else out there spoke my language, which at that time I thought to be impossible in Fort Wayne.
After listening to said EP just once I knew I had to see this band live, and fast – and soon enough I made a point of doing just that. They didn’t disappoint on stage; quite the contrary, with each of the dozen-plus times since showing improvement. Now in the closing days of 2007 (what seems like a lifetime since my personal All Nite Skate discovery) I have another EP (the largely unknown Quaker), a T-shirt, a full-length album (Western Shame) and now this, their brand new, eponymous, five-song, nearly 40-minute EP. It’s the best thing they’ve done, and I’m not just saying that because it’s their latest work and I want you, the reader, to share in my excitement. All Nite Skate is the work of a band now armed with more than just potential; this is the work of five musicians who have been writing, playing out and practicing regularly now for over two years. Where their other releases were simply the product of talent, All Nite Skate is the product of a talented band with a passion to move forward – a talented band that is changing the music scene they are a part of while preparing themselves for bigger things.
Consider Sonic Youth for a moment. While some of their albums do feel a bit meandering at times, their Geffen-released output is usually lean, pop-formatted and with vocals – that’s what casual fans usually know. What they don’t know is that through the years Sonic Youth have recorded countless instrumental songs, a sampling of which were collected on last year’s The Destroyed Room. This Sonic Youth album, more than anything ever released by Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Eluvium or The Album Leaf (or whatever other experimental instrumental rock band All Nite Skate have been compared to), offers an accurate national-level doppelganger for ANS. The difference, however, is that the Sonics pulled Room’s 11 tracks from hundreds of jam-based studio compositions. Not the case with All Nite Skate. No, All Nite Skate – despite having typically long songs – are an economically minded band. To date they’ve released less than 30 songs, and the five on this EP all have their own distinct personality – not an easy thing to do in the realm of minimalist instrumental music.
Confused by my usage of the word “minimalist” when describing this sometimes very loud, progressive-minded band? Wanna tell me all about Brian Eno’s series of ambient recordings? Everything in context. All Nite Skate might sound as big as an army at times, but, really, they’re just five people (guitarists Bob Haddad and Omar Afzaal, drummer Phil Arbogast, bassist Cole Strader and multi-instrumentalist Darcy Flanagan), not an orchestral ensemble. Unlike A Silver Mount Zion and pretty much every other dry-behind-the-ears instrumental indie rock band, All Nite Skate don’t have a blanket of mood-setting strings to fall back on. They don’t record in a studio with unlimited tracks, and they don’t have Jim O’Rourke hanging around, waiting to mix their songs. I don’t even think they baste their songs with countless overdubs, but that’s not to say these five new compositions aren’t fleshed out. The seven-minute “Fever Monument,” for example, is a perfect example of minimalism – minimalism in the context of the band’s five-part resources. The song, like all of All Nite Skate, sounds big and epic, lyrical with out words, heavy without the metal. It’s a composition built in movements, not a roundabout jam or loopy wedge of ambiance.
I could tell you about how these five composition-based songs never get boring and reveal something new with each spin. I could tell you that this band – that was very good to begin with – has gotten exponentially better since last year’s Western Shame LP. I could tell you that the lengthy “Fourteen” is one of the best songs of its kind you’re likely to find, Fort Wayne or otherwise. But, really, if you already know All Nite Skate’s music, none of this will come as a surprise. All you really need to know is that this young, talented motley crew of musicians keeps progressing, and that – unfortunately – they’re not going to be kicking around West Central Fort Wayne much longer. Nope, they’re too good. They’re already showing signs of deep, compositional understanding that bands like Explosions in the Sky – a well established, national-level band in All Nite Skate’s chosen genre – even have trouble consistently managing.
On a local level, All Nite Skate’s flux of popularity over the last year has almost single-handedly added a new element of sophistication to the local rock scene. All Nite Skate, with it’s memorable, long-labored rock compositions, should only up the ante. All Nite Skate will be available at the band’s CD release party at the Brass Rail in Fort Wayne on Friday, January 4. Be sure to also check out the Skate at an all-ages show at Wooden Nickel’s North Anthony store at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 5.
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