Brooklyn-based five-piece Escaper has released their debut album Skeleton Key… and it’s a trip. First things first, this is not background music. Skeleton Key is fully immersive and beckons the listener to become part of the story from start to finish. The instrumental album is a boundless, cosmic jazz-funk fusion that will completely absorb you if you let it, and we suggest you do.
The opening and title track, “Skeleton Key,” is immediately hypnotic. The cryptic song gradually picks up speed and leaves you suspended before seamlessly transitioning into track number two. During “Mutiny,” Escaper creates a rising tension, reminiscent of watching a wave grow and grow before crashing and rolling back out to sea to start again. The song feels like a constant push-and-pull between building anticipation and alleviating pressure.
“Lighthouse” changes the mood up a bit, opening with a buoyant rhythm. It’s airy and free. Every time the saxophone reenters the track, it is almost like a momentary restoration of order, but it always chooses to give in to the song’s ethereal nature instead. Next up, “Night Crawler” takes us out of the light, into the dark and on a mission. We arrive at the majestic “Narwhal,” a song that sounds like a revelation. Towards the midpoint of the track, it bursts wide open, allowing pure energy and light to come pouring in.
There is something tribal about the opening moments of “Skeleton Key Part 2.” The song continues on, drifty and weightless, while at the same time heavy with depth and layers. “Castles” is the closing track on Skeleton Key. This energetic, celebratory song is perhaps the most danceable track on the album. It moves back and forth between grandiose explosions and breaks of tranquility. Skeleton Key ends gracefully with a simple trail-off of the saxophone, and suddenly you’ve exited Escaper’s mystical world and returned to reality.
This genre-spanning album has no limits. If you have yet to hear Skeleton Key, make some room for these spacious jams and enjoy the ride. The day of the record’s release, Escaper took the stage at Rockwood Music Hall, a venue that has seen the likes of Lady Gaga, Jessie J, Mumford & Sons, and Billie Joe Armstrong before they hit it big.
The band played through their entire album, giving it a larger-than-life sound as they worked through each song — extending jams and melodies and stopping to explain the story of the journey each song takes you through. All too soon the album was played to completion, but the band wasn’t quite done yet. They played through tracks “Realms,” “Rare Form” and “Hands Up” with such energy the entire room couldn’t help but dance. If you haven’t gotten the chance to listen to Skeleton Key, you can find it streaming on Spotify and available for digital download on both iTunes and the band’s website. The band will be touring and hitting the festival scene this summer, you can see some of their dates below with more to be announced soon!
This article was co-authored by Jen O’Malley