Some things in life come easy, but others just don’t. The process behind Ian Skelly’s solo work does come with ease, and it was the prospect of a smooth, collaborative and friendly setting that made The Coral’s drummer travel to Germany last year.
With more than just a good idea of what he was looking for musically, Skelly set off to spend some quality-led creative time in Berlin. The purpose of his journey was to work on ‘Drifter’s Skyline’, his latest album project.
Throwing himself right into the work, self-described as “un-demoed, free-flowing and straight-to-tape stream-of-consciousness”, the record depicts a reaction to personal grief. But rather than dwelling on sadness, the songs are delivered with joy and intense feelings of optimism. Not one for delving deep into negativity or self-pity, the twelve uplifting songs are full of warmth.
The opener is the absorbing moment of strangeness that is ‘Captain Caveman’. It’s an instant where lyrics such as “Sha Lang, Sha Lang/Oogum Boogum, Rolling Stones/Flying Burritos and Country Joe/Watch Captain Caveman save the day” and inspired harpsichord touches facilitate the imagination of a ride into a place where “nothing really matters.”
This is followed by ‘Over the Moon’, a tranquil track where poetic elements form pleasant imagery, while the blend of a believable country vibe and lush harmonies makes ‘Jokerman’ a highlight on this record. ‘Travelling Mind’ represents a sanguine and fulfilling few minutes where whispers and light vocals come together. An engrossing track, ‘Laugh to Keep from Crying’ offers sonic psych-inspired kaleidoscopic effects, while title track ‘Drifter’s Skyline’ is more wondrous in its melancholy and mystery.
Elsewhere, ‘Gold in the Mud Master’ is romantic and creates a moment where soft guitar lines give an emotive touch. “I don’t believe it/Not a word that you say/True love is gonna find you someday” seems to be the message of the track. ‘Spirit Plane’ is electrifying and more rocky, but it also exhibits a slightly darker vibe.
Understated, yet dramatic and adventurous, the songs dip in and out of folk, Americana, country, rock and light touches of psychedelia with ease and precision. Layered and otherworldly, ‘Drifter’s Skyline’ brims with rich textures and moments of emotive exploration.
Words: Susan Hansen
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