When a band names themselves after a track on one of Brian Eno’s most lauded albums, it should be expected that said group would specialize in a particular brand of sophisticated ambient art pop. Well, Chicago’s The Big Ship are just that band! The group openly worships Eno (check their Twitter moniker for yet another example of this), but sonically they more closely resemble Bad Timing-/Eureka-era Jim O’Rourke with a dash of doomy post-rock drone. Like O’Rourke, these two boys love interlocking repetitive guitar parts that expand in texture as their works develop. Interestingly, O’Rourke often openly admitted to treating the aforementioned Drag City albums as musical melting pots for his deep array of obscure 60s and 70s influences. In a way, the stitched-together approach of an album like Eureka was a sort of precursor to hypnagogic pop, with its attempts to marry such disparate influences as Burt Bacharach, minimalism, and Ivor Cutler in order to create a completely new work out of the fuzzy memories of old.
It’s clear that nostalgia is also an important part of The Big Ship’s aesthetic as well, and in the video for “A Rabbit” (one of the most exquisitely song-oriented tracks off their excellent debut full-length for Hausu Mountain [disclosure: Mukqs is involved with the label]), director Nick Ciontea makes a direct reference to this by processing what looks like old family video footage. The effect of the processing often gives the viewer the sensation of watching a videotape of another videotape being played back on a VCR. I can’t help but wonder if in a way this reflects The Big Ship’s seeming love for 90s experimental art pop and, in turn, those artists’ love of prior generations’ forward-thinking art songs. Near the end of the video, images get blurred and distorted to the point where everything looks like a beautiful blurry mess. This implicitly reminds us that original influences, though still present, often get blurred when passed through generations of different artists. When the referential art of a man like O’Rourke becomes the source material for a band like The Big Ship, you get a very pretty song and video just like this.
The Big Ship’s debut album A Circle is Forever is out March 26 on Hausu Mountain. You can watch the video for “A Rabbit” above.