Review from Dirty Impound

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Desertshore: Drawing of Threes (Caldo Verde)

For over 15 years, guitarist Phil Carney has performed beside sad-core kingpin Mark Kozelek in both the Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon. His unique strain of solemn, atmospheric playing has resonated across the landscape of modern music with his influential work on such classic releases as the Painters’ 1996 album Songs for a Blue Guitar and Sun Kil’s 2008 epic April. Now the two old friends reconvene once again with the release of the second LP by Carney’s own instrumental group Desertshore with pianist Chris Connolly. Recorded at the legendary Hyde Street Studio in their native San Francisco, where such essential recordings as The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty, Santana’s Abraxas and Neil Young’s eponymous solo debut were cut, Drawing of Threes (released November 22) finds the group incorporating vocals for the very first time, with Kozelek singing on six of the ten tracks in addition to sitting in the production chair and playing bass on the entire thing. The end result is as shimmering and atmospheric as anything the combination of Kozelek and Carney have done to date, anchored by Connolly’s hushed, classically trained playing which brings a strong sense of resonant modality to the unique slow pop formula presented here. Whether or not Kozelek continues as an active member of Desertshore remains to be seen. However, if the band wants to make more records as affecting as Drawing of Threes they might not want to lose his number any time soon. (Ron Hart)

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Review from Pitchfork

San Francisco’s Desertshore ostensibly took their name from Nico‘s 1970 album, the one where she began writing her own songs and exerting more control over her sound and style. A decidedly more personal than commercial album– with a few songs in German and one sung by her daughter– Desertshore was not a hit, at least not on par with her debut or her albums with the Velvet Underground, but it continues to attract as many listeners as it repels. Similarly, Desertshore the band represents guitarist Phil Carney’s first step away from sideman status, after a stint in Red House Painters and a few appearances on albums and tours by former Painters frontman Mark Kozelek. Carney favors patient, shimmery repetitions of notes that establish tone instead of melody, and the group, which also includes pianist Chris Connolly and a rotation of percussionists, trades in glacial instrumentals that echo the sepiatone reminiscences of the best Painters tracks.

Desertshore, however, do not represent a conscious attempt by Carney to escape that band’s orbit; it’s less a solo or even a duo project than it is a collaborative entity. Kozelek signed the band to his own Caldo Verde label and contributed to their 2010 debut, Drifting Your Majesty. Now, almost inevitably, Kozelek has more or less joined the group: On their follow-up, Drawing of Threes, he plays barely noticeable basslines and adds lyrics and vocals to six of these 10 songs. It may be as close to a Red House Painters reunion as we will get– at least until Kozelek reconvenes the original Sun Kil Moon line-up.

As a result of Kozelek’s participation, Drawing of Threes will sound deeply familiar to anyone who’s heard any of the bands mentioned so far. His voice remains distinctively hollow-eyed, his vocal melodies sound as eloquently understated as ever, and the guitars ring in a darkly ruminative mood that sets Desertshore in the same 3 a.m. universe as Old Ramon and Ghosts of Great Highway. In other words, Kozelek dominates this album. Of the four instrumental tracks, only one– the standout “Matchlight Arcana”– exceeds the two-minute mark, while the others sound like soundtrack interstitials consigned to the album’s second half. It’s an odd dynamic: the guest plays the lead, the name band becomes the support. Whether that speaks to Desertshore’s modesty or timidity is never quite clear.

Still, it’s obvious why the musicians gravitate toward one another, not only here but on previous tours and Kozelek solo records: Their particular instruments suit each other evocatively, each bringing out something intriguing and perhaps unnoticed in the other. In that regard, Drawing is best when it casts the familiar elements in a new light. “Vernon Forrest” sets Kozelek’s vocals against Connolly’s sunlight-on-water piano ripples, like a demo for the vox-and-keys album you know Kozelek has in him. “Randy Quaid” is a laundry list of half-remembered summertime totems that includes “Immigrant Song” and the troubled Vacation actor and manages to rhyme “Spalding Gray” with “the Brothers Quay.” It’s an especially playful song for a notoriously depressive singer-songwriter, and Carney’s chiming guitar evokes a specific perspective rather than a general sense of nostalgia. Crucially, it sounds more like the memory of summer than summer itself, which lends the song a bittersweet tone. Because Drawing sustains a similar mood across 10 tracks, the album sounds cohesive, if not exactly revelatory. For Kozelek, this is a not unpleasantly minor effort that allows him to stretch out a bit, but it only hints at what all Carney and Connolly can do together.

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Review from SpinCDs

Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon sings on 6 of the albums 10 tracks.

Drawing Of Threes is Desertshore’s second album but it’s their first with vocals. Their debut in 2010, Drifting Your Majestic was entirely instrumental.They didn’t set out to make this album with vocals. They had planned, after the critical success in the USand UK of Drifting Your Majesty, to continue in the instrumental form. Fate however, intervened. The two forces behind Desertshore come from quite different directions. Chris Connolly is a classically trained pianist who studied with Julian White and Sharon Mann in California. 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. The third force that intervened was Phil’s old band-mate from Red House Painters, Mark Kozelek. At San Francisco’s Hyde Street Studios during this past_summer, Mark began production of Drawing Of Threes, as well as adding vocals, bass and subtle hints of nylon string guitar.”My intentions were only to help produce the record, but melodies and lyrics were coming to me as I heard the music, so it felt natural to put a mic up. It was an interesting way to approach music, and I consider it a true co-writing experience between the three of us. The writing fell together very naturally and the songs don’t feel overworked,” Kozelek says. Kozelek ended up singing on six of the album’s_ten tracks, and the result has a melodic, even pop flavor. But Desertshore still retains the willingness to define genres that characterized their first record. Tracks from Drifting Your Majesty were used on Showtime’s ‘Californication’ and also the documentary film, Mark Kozelek: On Tour. Drawing Of Threes combines shimmering guitar notes, resonant piano, subtle distortion and noise with Kozelek’s distinctive vocals to produce something new for both Desertshore and Mark Kozelek himself.

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Stereo Gum Review of Drawing of Threes

The former Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon guitarist Phil Carney now leads the band Desertshore, and he’s tapped his former boss in both those bands, depression-rock godhead Mark Kozelek, to sing and play bass on new Desertshore album Drawing Of Threes. We’ve already posted one track from that album, “Mercy.” Now here’s another: The similarly crushing six-minute wallow “Diana.”

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Drifting Your Majesty Review on iTunes

iTunes Review

This incredibly sublime album of pastoral instrumentals is a must-have for anyone in need of music through which to dream the day away. Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon guitarist Phil Carney and classically trained pianist Chris Connolly combine for the gentlest one-two punch in San Francisco. The tunes range from shimmering pieces of astral projection (“Black Mirror Water,” “Mojave Mirage”) to acoustic, British-folk-like impressions (“Gwynnedd”). The extended length of the title track at over ten minutes allows for a truly mesmerizing instrumental weave that builds to icy caps of distortion, while brief tracks like “Darkhan,” “Koko,” “Right Favor” and “Maurice In Reflection” provide quick, flourishing escapes. Carney’s tone is immaculate. Neither play merely to show off their chops; each player creates with a sense of economy and the song at hand. “Beautiful Descent” is simply gorgeous, its notes bouncing off stars. “Plataea” dips into a Middle-Eastern mood with dramatic guitar pulses and careful drum accents. “Sixteen Drawers” is a sweet, flowing piece that creates a dreamlike web for all to drift away.

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Desertshore on YouTube

Click on the link below to see video on YouTube of Mojave Mirage

Desertshore on YouTube

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Desertshore Album Available on iTunes

The new album “Drifting Your Majesty” is available for download on iTunes. Here is the link to listen to samples and download the album:

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First Ever Interview with Desertshore

Exclusive interview with Phil Carney just released on the bad penny blog.  Also an exclusive mp3 from the album “Drifting Your Majesty” is available through this site only. Read the interview by clicking the link below!

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Drifting Your Majesty Available for Pre-order

For those of you interested in the album, it is currently available for pre-order on the caldo verde records website. A nice feature has been added that allows a quick preview of all the tracks on the album. There are still a lot of hidden gems on the album so some of the quick previews are not entirely representative. If anyone has any questions or comments feel free to leave a comment here or on our facebook page. We are excited to be releasing the album in one month!



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Desertshore Press Bio


‘Drifting Your Majesty’ Caldo Verde Records

Robert Vickers

The role of instrumental albums in rock has changed quite a deal over time. While it would be unusual now to see one on the top 40 as they were in the 50’s and 60s they have not disappeared from the scene. Rather they have gone underground. Instead of being dance music as they were in the beginning of the rock era they now set moods more like pre-rock jazz combos. 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.

Street date Oct 18th 2010

For more information please contact Robert Vickers at Proxy Media 212 6743541 or

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