Album Review: Jenkem Presents: Beginnings // Various Artists
By nature, so-called ‘skate music’ is difficult to define. Hard-edged punk rock may spring to mind, but a scroll through any YouTube comment section or online forum on the subject will prove the contrary (for some, that is). For such a niche subculture, which many associate with the likes of Sum 41, Blink-182 or The Offspring who spawned the high-tempo skate punk genre in the 1990s, modern skateboarders have branched out. So it begs the question, what do skaters really listen to?
Jenkem, a specialist magazine dedicated to all things skateboarding, has compiled a collection of nineteen tracks handpicked from its readers’ suggestions in an attempt to answer exactly that. Spanning an array of styles from indie rock and electronic to instrumental hip-hop, created by artists from across the globe, Beginnings is music for skateboarders, by skateboarders. Produced by founder Ian Michna and his brother Adrian, electronic music producer of Thousand Thursday fame, the pair has collaborated with original artists and pro-skaters (Jamal Smith and Josiah Gatlyn to name a few) to create a truly unique and eclectic album.
As you might expect, Beginnings kicks off with a healthy dose of nineties nostalgia in the form of Darling Din’s reverb-heavy, Hole-esque grunge on “Lost Kids”, followed by Shirtless’s scuzzy pop which flows in a similar vein. Not to be outdone in fiery punk rock, Ghost Foot’s “Wounded Son” and “Sedated”, courtesy of Girl Tears, deliver frantic drumming and the kickass, DIY ethos we’ve come to associate with skate parks.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Danny Boy Blue, Tai Khanor and Alaskan Tapes turn the genre on its head, venturing into electronica and avant-garde instrumentals. “Tricky Sleave” marries spliced sound effects with trip-hop beats; likewise, “Color” experiments with French Touch in terms of sampling, creating a drastic but not unwelcome contrast with nosier numbers on the compilation. Alaskan Tapes’s “The Things We Do”, an ethereal piano piece with a sprinkling of electronic production, is a standout track in that its stripped back, classical influence is so unexpected in such a collection as Beginnings.
Warm, honey-drenched R&B takes the shape of “IV” by Bogotá’s Las Hermanas, providing real summery, old-school vibes, as on PoptartPete’s “Lovely Day”. Perhaps unexpectedly on a skate compilation, the trumpet-infused “Look at You” has an almost disco feel to it, complete with back spinning from LA-based Grate Lakes.
Beginnings is an unusual compilation to say the least. With many tracks exclusive to Jenkem and each 100% crowdsourced, it brings together a range of undiscovered talent on a compilation which, although admittedly very leftfield, is extremely listenable. The Michna brothers’ creation is unashamedly cool and pleasantly surprising, subverting any kind of presumptions about the skate subculture. Beginnings is available digitally and on super limited yellow vinyl pressings (a mere 300 copies exist), so be sure to cop a listen, whether you can kickflip or not.
Words by Kristen Sinclair
Originally published at https://www.indiependent.co.uk on May 23, 2017.