Bands like Mogwai and other math rock bands have also managed to make instrumental albums that captured critical attention leading to a re-examination of instrumental rock and it’s possibilities. The two forces behind Desertshore begin their version of this re-examination from quite different directions. Chris Connolly is a classically trained pianist who studied with Julian White and Sharon Mann in California. He is also a biochemist graduating from UC Berkeley. Phil Carney’s history is much more from the rock world.
He played guitar in San Francisco legends, Red House Painters and later, Sun Kil Moon. Chris's early influences were atmospheric UK bands, especially from the label 4AD such as Dead Can Dance, The Cocteau Twins and The Cure. Phil’s are once again more from the rock arena but also more structured and song based; as in Bowie, David Sylvian, Alice Cooper and Neil Young. This melding of rock and classical, atmosphere and craft defines Desertshore.
Their shared interest in ethereal sounds and the fact that neither was afraid of allowing the music to lead them in whatever harmonic direction seemed right, unites them. Phil and Chris had been collaborating for a few years before deciding to move to the studio and record the compilation of material that became ‘Drifting Your Majesty’. Other Bay Area musicians such as drummer Dave Muench came in to play on the record, which was recorded at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco with overdubs completed in Alameda, CA. Phil’s band-mate from Red House Painters, Mark Kozelek, co-produced with Desertshore and it was mastered by John Golden. The result is a superb album of shimmering guitar notes and resonant piano that wanders dreamlike though a series of soundscapes.
By the time the listener reaches the title track they are immersed in a tour de force of subtle distortion and noise. Coming off this crest the album slips through a series of changes that include folk, country, Middle Eastern and lounge influences. In fact, the lack of stylistic definition is ‘Drifting Your Majesty’s’ single most defining feature. In the end these are fine musicians extending themselves without regard to the confines of genre and the results are entrancing.
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