This video is from the new release from Desert Ships. Directed by Julian Hand, an experimental filmmaker and light show artist who’s recently worked with TOY and The Oscillation, Skyliner is based on a true story of a fatal plane crash. It’s sung from the perspective of one of the passengers, and how they quickly they come to terms with what is about to transpire, embracing their fate. The track is heavily cinematic; a haunting guitar loop and hypnotic groove allow the dream-like melodies to weave in and among each other, all the while propelling the listener along unwittingly to a massive crescendo and ending.
Mikey (vocals/guitar), Daniel (bass/vocals), and Claude (drums/vocals) formed the band in 2012, releasing their debut album ‘Doll Skin Flag’ in the same year. The album, produced by Mark Gardener (formerly of seminal shoegaze band Ride), was met with huge critical acclaim. Alan McGee, founder of Creation Records described the band as having “some great fucking songs” (no need for such foul language Alan it’s not clever) and Mark Gardener described his time working with Desert Ships as “a total pleasure, a total trip.”
The London based so called “trip-tonic” three-piece describe their sound as heavily cinematic. lead vocalist Mikey explains how their songwriting process works: “The majority of the songs start from loops or scratch demos I make which are then played to Daniel and Claude. We go through an old school process of playing them over and over until the groove and beats sit just right. Afterwards we work diligently tweaking top lines and hooks. The lyrics can either come fully formed with the demo or I finish them off as we arrange the song. Some tracks will never work live but are perfect for an album. I don’t mean filler. Some are better listened to driving in the middle of the night, others should be heard live and loud in a club with your friends. We have a huge amount of songs that are to be recorded.”
Comparisons have been drawn with the likes of Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala, and in production and soundscape terms John Barry. Mikey describes the band’s music as “a reverb drenched apocalyptic experience”. My view is that they sound like a unique combination of Gong, Neu!, Acid Mothers Temple, and Amplifier. There’s a psych edge to the music also which mixes things up a bit.
The Skyliner EP was also produced by Mark Gardener. Written last year, it covers themes of mortality and escape through tales of heart surgery, plane crashes, bombings, and the motorway doldrums. Some of the lyrics were finished off on a night train from Hanoi to Saigon, before Mikey flew back to London to go straight to the studio and record. “I was listening to Steve Reich’s ‘Music For 18 Musicians’ a lot during this period. I still do now. I think it’s one of the most incredible pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Somebody recently called us a dream wave trio and I thought that was pretty apt”
It’s a fine EP with three other tracks in addition to the above. I was particularly fond of the motorik instrumental “Ausgang” which rattles along at a Dinger-esque pace with scabrous guitar scribblings and surging layers of sound. “Shell Shock” moves between Gong like sonic ripples and Wayne Coyne pop musings. “Heart Beats” is an odd closer, which doesn’t seem to fit with the other material on the EP and suffers in comparison. Overall though it’s a good collection of tunes and is recommended.