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DARKSHIPS Phases 4-part CDR album series (Wishing Chair)

Genre-transcending music project Darkships have a 4-part album series entitled Phases, each album exploring an individual concept and approaching this idea from a different musical direction. The series begins with Phase 1: Sometimes I Dream of Water. Ocean to Mountain to Ocean is an experimental soundscape comprising hypnotic repetition, modern minimalist jazz, art music, rainstorm noises and other found sounds. Steve Reich is named among the influences on this album, and this is particularly evident with this track. Play the Light continues the same pulsing bassline from the previous track, combining this with the sounds of running water, seagulls and pigeons, and wild psychedelic guitar improvisations. Shadows in the Water begins with a brutal barrage of fierce percussion and noise, giving way to ritualistic drumming and ethereal drones. Waves is a pulsing, rhythmic soundscape. Bringer of Life incorporates that recurring pulsing bassline heard in earlier tracks alongside soothing ambient music and intense guitar work with psych and prog aspects.

Phase 2: Saros is a more melodic album, incorporating aspects of jazz, prog, psych and beyond. Reflection sets a flowing melody to the sound of crashing waves. Where You End is Where You Begin is based around jazz trumpet. The type of jazz here is melodic and chilled but far from being overly smooth, and most resembles the form of jazz popular in the late 1950s and 60s. Darkships combine this jazz influence with prog guitar, an effective mixture. 242 Was the Number is an inventive blend of jazz, prog and psych bookended by neoclassical piano sections. To You, From Where features funk-rock riffage and jazz trumpet wrapped up in a flowing psychedelic atmosphere. Saros is an artistic composition combining retro-futuristic synth with evocative use of trumpet and percussion. Time is Only a Measure of Change opts for a more abstract approach, creating a well-crafted sound collage taking in ticking clock, speech samples played backwards, swelling drones and sound effects, and snippets of jazz guitar.

Phase 3: Identity introduces vocals, and a general emphasis on electronic instrumentation, creating an end result Darkships have described as Distorted Outsider Pop. The lyrical theme of this album is "exploring what it is to be us", the songs touching on philosophical and occult topics. Silver Fishes is off-centre electronic pop with a funky groove and lyrics about Lucifer. Body of Light features a reading from an esoteric work by Edward Peach aka Ophiel, set to a mix of off-kilter electronica and funky psych-rock. So Few Meetings With Ourselves is dreamlike psych pop with experimental elements and philosophical lyrics. Slippery Path features shrill, manic ranting of surreal lyrics over similarly surreal musical accompaniment. We Are of the Earth combines dub, prog, ambient, and experimental music.

Phase 4: The Good Earth is still in progress and is due for release later in 2015. I have a sampler album, Phases Companion, which features 4 tracks from The Good Earth along with an assortment of tracks from the preceding albums in the series. The press release promises a pagan theme for this fourth album: "The unconquered Sun. Deep in the green wood the old gods still rule". The tracks excerpted here are The Silver Vail (dark psych pop with ritualistic drumming), Rise (psych-tinged indie pop), Out of My Tree (meandering instrumental psych) and The Westward Path (intense drone/psych/prog), all of which have left me keen to hear the rest of this album.

Darkships are a highly inventive band, doing their own thing outside of all the faddish trends, and blending various genres together in a way that is entirely their own. The Phases series is well worth checking out. Visit www.wishingchairrecords.co.uk


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Text Kim Harten, 2015.