Review: Darkstar – News From Nowhere
Published on February 12th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Dubstep…two-step…every where a step step…”future garage”? What’s that, then?
Rocksucker won’t pretend to have been engaged with Darkstar prior to News From Nowhere – to be honest, we’d seen the name and wondered if it had anything to do with these chaps – but some cursory googling suggests it to be something of a departure from the Londoners’ acclaimed 2010 debut North.
Certainly, there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of ‘genre exercise’ about this collection of tracks, which conceivably at once strengthens their credibility and weakens their commercial potential, unless of course they have a ton of syncing opportunities thrown at them. We’d like to think that the otherworldly and psychedelic properties of News From Nowhere would keep it from ending up like, say, Play by Moby, but then look what happened to Röyksopp.
Pointless speculating aside, there’s much here to luxuriate in: intro piece “Light Body Clock Starter” is floaty, oh so floaty, floating its floaty way into strange ticking chime/chiming tick of “Timeaway”, which in turn gathers pace then welcomes aboard vocodered vocals (NB: vocodered, no Auto-Tuned!) and a satisfyingly shuffling rhythm section. It’s electronic psych-pop with steel drums, and what a splendid idea that always is. File also under T for ‘trippy’ and ‘twinkly’.
Almost every element of “Armonica” chips in with its own disorienting properties – it’s by turns dissonant and ambient, swims into blissfully bubbling synth then chucks a swaggering clockwork beat on it – before “-“, which incidentally looks like one of those flying platforms from Super Mario World when presented within inverted commas as per Rocksucker’s house style, furthers the impression of this LP as Sigur Rós infused into Vanishing Point-era Primal Scream, in this particular instance shot through with Talk Talk circa Talk Talk. Dig that journalistic cliché, folks!
“A Day’s Pay for a Day’s Work” starts out sounding like a mid-to-late ’60s Paul McCartney doused in ketamine, then proceeds to sound like a monged Animal Collective covering “All I Wanna Do” from The Beach Boys’ should-be-classic 1970 album Sunflower. “Young Hearts” deals in the kind of sparsely circusy shroomadelia that (pre-Mobile Disco) Simian perfected on their debut album Chemistry Is What We Are, while “Amplified Ease” plays out as a confusing yet agreeable flurry of different vocal parts and ringing electronics, certain elements of which might sound abrasive were they isolated but somehow come together quite entrancingly, reminding Rocksucker of sadly missed Welsh troupe Zabrinski. This one also floats of into celestial wilderness, just the right side of sweet to be ear candy but still rather spaced out.
“You Don’t Need a Weatherman” becomes a strange cross between acid house and The Polyphonic Spree, winding itself up as if it were clockwork and gloriously swarming its mix like Caribou did on the still-stunning Up in Flames LP he released under the name Manitoba, and “Bed Music – North View” does the hokey cokey with its clacking, clattering rhythm section as it oversees a masterful series of interchanges between the splendorous and the freaked out.
Such exploration merits an epic curtain-closer, and News From Nowhere is granted one in the form of “Hold Me Down”, with its big, felty stabs of synth punctuating the kind of thing us music scribes might describe as ‘swirling’, ‘shimmering’ and ‘glacial’…you know, that sort of thing.
We liked Dark Star, and now we like Darkstar. How about that? (“Dark Star” by I Am Kloot is also a beauty.)
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
News From Nowhere is out now on Warp. For more information, please visit darkstar.ws