If someone made post-rock or kraut-rock with Dead Can Dance’s instrument collection.
When an artist or band brings elements from one genre and applies it to another you can sometimes get a sound that mashes up the best of both. That only happens when the artist understands what they are bringing together and why. Skyminds are a band that does this really well. They bring all acoustic and folk instruments and create space-rock with them. The result is something rather unique.
‘Shapes & Traces’ is Skyminds second album and I envy their instrument collection. Outside of the usual drums, guitar, bass and some funky organs, they have a wind range of hand drums, tuned percussion, zithers and other folk instruments that you’ll find hidden in the mix. Skyminds have no rush and no end destination they want to take you to. Their philosophy is focused on the journey and how it evolves over time. Take a central track to the album ‘Guduud’ for example. It is a chilled out jam that phases in and out various guitars, zithers, percussion loops and keyboards. It slowly transforms and shapeshifts over its seven and a half minutes. It is an obscure reference but there is an old Xbox game called Sudeki that had a game soundtrack that took this approach. You feel like you are travelling and each instrument is either a landmark, a weather change, or sunrise to sunset. It is both relaxing and meditative.
Elsewhere the same approach applies but the instrumentation changes. ‘The Atmosphere’ focuses on dulcimers, bells and light breezy vocals. It feels like a circular breathing meditation at times as you rise higher and higher into the sky. As you rise, the instrumentation changes from bass and grounded vocals to chimes, woodwind and the gentlest of pitter-patters of the hammered dulcimer. ‘Sand Patterns’ sounds like a lost Peter Ulrich song with beautiful raj like reeds droning underneath exotic percussion. ‘Beneath the Lake’ is the closest Skyminds gets to a traditional song and it evokes the same feel as the band Espers but with a dissonant Beck-like vocal.
The three other tracks lean more towards the space-rock and kraut-rock side of things. ‘Interphase’ and ‘Soft Landing’ are synth-heavy and enjoy playful experimental noises. The latter in particular could be used for an art sci-fi movie. The track that combines everything together though is ‘Beyond the Clearing’. This piece pulls in all of the acoustic and exotic instruments and then drenches it with wiry synths and a soaring electric guitar. It sounds so expansive and all-encompassing as it builds and builds momentum only for the track to space out. It is the musical equivalent of seeing a mirage as ambient synth sizzle away before the drums filter in and out. Its really clever production and sound design.
Skyminds have brought so much creativity to the space-rock and kraut-rock scene because most of what they bring would ordinarily not belong there. I love the sound palette and the breaking of expectations of what you’d expect this type of rock to be. I also enjoyed how unrushed and expansive the songs were – they continue to surprise from beginning to end. If anyone is looking for some psychedelia-tinged music that doesn’t quite sit nicely in a box but gives you plenty of ideas and emotions – Skyminds have you covered.