sugar sk*-*lls, 2023

The sugar sk*-*lls full-length release for Star Time may have been one of the most ambitious undertakings that YK has tackled to date.

Originally, sugar sk*-*lls served as the pseudonym for Ben Marcantel; a nom de plume that he has released music under since 2010. Over the years, he would collaborate with other artists – a split release with hobbledeions, a 2014 re-recorded version of a 2013 song with meadownoise and Lindsay Johns, a cover of a Kyle Hamlett song recorded by Coupler, a split release with Financier featuring Tye Bellar, Tom Senter and Seth West, etc. etc.

That last collaboration turned into something more. Seth West (aka Gray Worry) and Tye Bellar started working more closely with Marcantel on a new batch of songs. Always open to a collaboration, Marcantel allowed that hive mind to form. Over the course of several years, many weekends and more than a handful of bottles of Disaronno, a large set of songs came to fruition.

The entire recording process is a tale unto itself but after a long process, they had eight songs that were cohesive, compelling and altogether emotional. Star Time was ready and we decided to make something grand of the release process.

Three singles were chosen to lead up to the album’s release. Each of these “maxi-singles” would have at least two remixes of the album track, preferably from an artist that we all greatly respected. Lastly, each single would also contain yet another artist covering a different album track from the unreleased Star Time. Each single would also have a music video.

In hindsight, the plan is ludicrous and I’m incredibly happy that we embraced it and made it happen. The inclusion of a cover song from the unreleased full-length felt like a strange move at the time but it allows these singles to maintain an extra level of interest now that the album is released.

“Becomes Me”

“Becomes Me” kicked things off with an incredible video by Dycee Wildman. She is the co-founder of the Defy Film Festival, a filmmaker in her own right and an incredibly visioned creator. Her video for the single is nothing the band would have ever conjured with their own brains and no one could be more pleased about it than us.

The maxi-single contains remixes from Negro Justice x Cal Cuttah and Robbie Lynn Hunsinger. The two could not be more divergent in their styles but that’s exactly what makes it so compelling! RIFFT provided a cover of “Nothing” that transformed the song into a mind-bending psychdelic stoner metal journey.


I’m happy to report that each of these maxi-singles is truly impressive. There’s not a weak one in the entire bunch, which is a real testament to how the band understood their vision for sharing Star Time with the world.

“Two-Chambered” features remixes from Makeup and Vanity Set and Coupler; both giving a wonderfully unique new spin on the song, particularly in the final bridge that contains one of Sugar Sk*-*lls most heartbreaking sequences. Previous collaborator Kyle Hamlett joined forces with Luke Schneider for their Kyle Hamlett Duo project to cover “Undone,” a decidedly delicate and acoustic take on a unabashedly electronic song.

The video was created by Casey Pierce, a filmmaker we’ve enjoyed for his work with Twen, Jessie Baylin and even a little Gwar. Fun fact; the connection between Pierce and YK goes all the way back to 2010 thanks to Uncle Skeleton.

The video is a rather epic affair to say the least. It’s inspired by the 1982 cult classic, meditative, film Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio. It spans space and time and, quite frankly, it’s incredibly satisfying.

“Crystal Orchids” featuring Cortney Tidwell

The maxi-singles were rounded out by the only track on the album featuring a lead guest vocalist, Cortney Tidwell. Her voice is absolutely sublime and if you are not familiar with any of her prior output, please indulge.

Remixes from Eve Maret, TAN and Both Eyes round out the remixes of the maxi-singles and they are, truly, wildly diverse from one another. I would have never expected to hear this particular trio back to back but it’s a wonderful listen. Meadownoise provides the final cover with “Honeycomb” – complete with a surprising use of accordion.

The video was created by Ben Marcantel himself; part visualizer, part programming and all immersive. The end of the piece has always felt quite satisfying in a way that invites additional viewings.

Star Time

Following up the release of three jam packed maxi-singles did not seem possible but, again, sugar sk*-*lls swung for the fences and knocked it out of the park.

The record, along with all of the remixes and covers, were printed to a double cassette offering. Tape 1 being the album and Tape 2 being a re-sequenced “mixtape” of all of the bonus material.

All of these promotional moves to garner more awareness of the album were impressive but none of them would be possible if the album itself wasn’t a compelling listen to begin with. From start to finish, Star Time finds its way through the largess expanses of the universe and the intimately personal of melancholy, longing and pain.. all wrapped in layers of thick synths, deep beats, vocoder and minute details that reward a proper headphone listen.

The trio played a handful of shows as well; a feat that Marcantel did not take on to often as a solo performer. Every show I attended, someone would remark how incredible their set was – rightfully so.

sugar sk*-*lls by Miles Price
sugar sk*-*lls by HN James
sugar sk*-*lls by HN James
sugar sk*-*lls by Lance Conzett

Star Time was a beast of a record to unleash on the world but it felt great to have so many additional parties involved along the way. The subject matter of the record deserves care and introspection; which I hope we were able to provide.

I’m told that the eight songs that appear on Star Time are just the tip of the iceberg. The trio has worked up a much larger body of work that they’ve been refining and polishing. If you see them live, they’ve been playing them as of late. Exciting prospects for 2024 as far as I’m concerned.


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