Snakeskin - Single (2023)
Review By Dan Fister
November 19, 2023
University of Houston's Final Measure makes their RARB debut (!) with a cover of one of pop sensation Rina Sawayama's lesser-known tracks, Snakeskin. Although I think the all-gender group gives a good performance, the heavy distortion in the production of the track significantly interferes with the listening experience.
Whether a result of the recording process or an artistic choice made in post-production by Prabh Saini and Wedler Lordeus, the filter over the track keeps the listener at a distance while simultaneously overwhelming with the quantity of sounds. Even with my good headphones, I feel as if I'm listening to a song heavy on the reverb through a speaker system that has seen better days. The original has something like this filter, but it does not impede the listening quality there nearly as much as on Final Measure's track where the diction, articulation, and tone quality all suffer as a result.
Lordeus, who gives an admirable performance on vp on a chart that calls for a lot of different types of sounds and beats, is too present in the mix because the filter both amplifies and diffuses only the snare and hi-hat sounds while muting the others. Similarly, the effect makes it difficult to assess the vocal stylings of soloist Hanna Lopez, who gives a nuanced performance as best I can tell. The background voices sound good — in tune, blending well, some dynamic contrast — but hearing them clearly is a challenge for large portions of the track.
Perhaps another reviewer who has different aesthetic sensibilities would be less turned off by the distortion. I kept wondering when it would clear up so that I could hear the singing more. To my ear, using this effect more sparingly on the track (i.e. just at the beginning and then fading out as the beat drops 40 seconds in) would have enhanced the sonic levels and the arc built into Saini's arrangement rather than dulling them. I commend Final Measure for taking a creative risk in their first recording and hope the group learned a lot they can use when working on the next one.