Release Date: Oct 2, 2015
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
"Do you know when you go, 'Well, I'm going to go to uni, and I'm gonna have this job. Then I'm gonna buy a house, gonna meet a boy, settle down'? I wish I could have followed that. But I haven't," says an interview snippet on Darkstar's third album. It's spoken matter-of-factly, but the sadness is evident, a reflection of the melancholy associated with the North of England.
Things aren't going well in the U.K. right now, politically speaking. The right-leaning Conservative government is dismantling public services and hammering the poor, while the left is, quite simply, a powerless laughingstock. It's precisely this demoralizing picture of U.K. society that London ….
Following Darkstar's second album (and Warp debut) News from Nowhere, the dubstep-turned-electro-pop band, lost vocalist James Buttery, reverting to their original duo lineup of Aiden Whalley and James Young. Whalley takes the reins here as the duo's vocalist, but they retain their experimental pop sound, with perhaps a little bit more emphasis on beats than on their previous effort. The most intriguing characteristic of Foam Island is its collage-like feel incorporating snippets of interviews with young adults from Huddersfield, England, a town located close to where Darkstar are based.
The idea behind Darkstar's Foam Island is interesting, even if it's been done before. Sandwiched between nearly every track are short one- or two-minute spoken-word interludes, taken from an assortment of characters, all providing commentary on community, society at large and personal gains and losses. What these tracks end up doing, though, is creating a gulf between themselves and the rest of the album; they're isolated, interruptive and ineffective at providing a narrative.The tracks that manage to develop in between vary significantly, and often leave a lot to be desired.
?Does the title of London duo Darkstar’s third album conjure up an image of a wild Heston Blumenthalian gastronomic experiment for you? Could a Foam Island involve a nightmarish soundtrack to the horror of sitting down to find your perfectly-cooked steak and chips submerged in the middle of a hellish, creamy morass? Thankfully, no cutting-edge culinary carnage is present. However upon listening it quickly becomes clear over the album’s 40 minutes that the artists have bitten off substantially more than they can chew. The unsavoury problem is that the ingredients just don’t work together.