Release Date: Feb 5, 2013
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
For many, the glitch-meets-dubstep of Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer represents Darkstar at their best. Back when the band were on the Hyperdub label and little more than tinkering production bods, it appeared that they could be capable of doing no wrong. Shifting labels and styles is a brave move and with their second album bearing almost no resemblance to their previous work, it’s fair to say that Darkstar has moved on significantly.
Those familiar with Darkstar's signature single, Aidy's Girl Is a Computer, may find their reinvention startling. The trio have moved from Hyperdub to Warp, stepped away from glitchy dubstep and fallen headfirst into hazy, Animal Collective territory. It's a flattering makeover, however, taking an indieish dreamscape sound usually dominated by US bands and dressing it up with a flourish of British nightlife.
Darkstar are one of the strangest stories stemming from the late '00s dubstep boom. With 2010's North, they shuffled from depressive garage music to equally downcast pop, seemingly instantly. Outside of some tonal similarities and a general mood of despair, that album had almost nothing in common with their music up to that point. Gone were the beats, and in their place was James Buttery, whose voice became the music's focal point.
Logging on with the clockwork garage of ‘Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer’ in 2009, Darkstar have trodden a more eccentric path than most. The frostbitten grandeur of their debut album ‘North’ in 2010 prefigured post-dubstep’s move towards Proper Pop Songwriting by a few months. Now the London trio are back with the follow-up ‘News From Nowhere’, a twinkling set of songs that benefits from Wild Beasts soundman Richard Formby’s gossamer production touch.
There is electonica to move your feet and there is electronica to move your soul. Darkstar’s debut album North arrived at a time when James Blake was fast becoming the poster boy for bridging this gap. He had an irresistible Fiest cover and the weight of Polydor’s marketing budget to his name. Darkstar had the sleeper hit ‘Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer’ and the kudos of being signed to Hyperdub.
DarkstarNews From Nowhere[Warp; 2013]By Will Ryan; February 7, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGNot many who call London home can claim a career as unexpected as Darkstar's. "Aidy's Girl Is a Computer," first released in 2009 and reappearing on their excellent 2010 Hyperdub debut, North, was a laptop 2-step anthem that belonged to a different era of UK bass impulses than what showed up on the rest of the group's first LP. After recruiting vocalist James Buttery, the now-trio put together a record of robotically skewed, overcast Londoner-influenced synthpop that sounded as much like a tribute to its cloudy English namesake as it did to Caves of Steel.
Say what you like about Darkstar's shapeshift from forward-facing production crew to pillowy dreampop dudes, but it's probably not a move they made for cred points. After all, back when they were featured players on Kode9's Hyperdub label, the London-based duo of James Young and Aiden Whalley won all sorts of looks for their wonky but thoughtfully-crafted strain of dubstep. The subsequent addition of vocalist James Buttery appeared to position Darkstar at the forefront of a generation of dance acts looking to marry vocals and textured dance sounds in a novel and original way.
Darkstar’s News From Nowhere is transient and fragile. Upon first listen, I could only hear it as monotonous, and I still do if the light doesn’t shine a certain way at a particular time of day. But that seems to be part of their point. The lugging, languorous build to the finish is definitely a statement, a nod towards the human condition, and the level of subtlety in News From Nowhere is stunning when studied or when the listener allows the album in full to wash over them.
When Darkstar released their debut LP, North, at the end of 2010, it signalled a change in musical direction, as the trio ditched the hiccupping beats and haunted vocal samples that defined their early singles for a more song-based, untreated sound. In a move that makes Darkstar's switch from Hyperdub to Warp that much more logical, News from Nowhere finds the Londoners wholly abandoning their dubstep roots, laying down ten structurally-sound dark-wave warblers. The use of James Buttery as a full-time vocalist helps give News from Nowhere an identifiable personality — melodies are sharper and brighter, even when subjected to waves of reverb ("Timeaway") and dreamy layering ("You Don't Need a Weatherman").
In 2007, when Darkstar debuted with the seductive dub of "Dead 2 Me" and the probing dubstep of "Lilyliver," both of which were woman-fronted A-sides, one couldn't have predicted where the group's sound would fall by 2012/2013. After producers Aiden Whalley and James Young added James Buttery to supply vocals for their debut album, 2010's dramatically sullen North -- a transitional album that saw them break from dubstep -- they changed course once again. Undoubtedly attributed to having Buttery as a writer for the first time, as well as a creatively restless nature, Darkstar now take the shape of an avant electronic pop trio.
British electronic trio Darkstar isn’t in a hurry to go anywhere in particular on their sophomore effort, News from Nowhere. The album is a slugglishly paced, purgatorial mix of Animal Collective-style sequencing and the eerie, formless minimalism of The King of Limbs-era Radiohead. More often than not, that combination leads the band inside a drifting cloud of ambient, overripe electronica that’s as beautiful as it is frustrating and forgettable, making for a pretty but ultimately unremarkable listening experience.
It's the feeling I loved as a child when I staggered across the grass, screaming and giddy with joy, after my father had given me a 'helicopter ride', taking my hands and swinging me in the air around him. It's the feeling I experienced the day I rode a rollercoaster nine times with the first real hangover of my life, when the adrenalin pumping through me kept the pain of the previous night's neat Southern Comfort, drunk from a plastic tooth mug, at arm's length for a short but gratifying while before I returned to the toilets to be sick again. And it's the feeling I recognised that day I went diving for the first time and, deep beneath murky water, lost my bearings and panicked, not knowing which way was up and which was down, before I spotted the glimmer of sunshine above.
Be honest. Despite the widely positive to reaction to debut LP North, Darkstar never really made much sense on Hyperdub. Though their music shared a forward thinking mindset with the rest of the roster, it could also be light and friendly in a way none of their label mates ever seemed to care much for. A move to Warp for their second album News From Nowhere – which now features vocalist James Buttery joining James Young and Aiden Whalley as a wholly integral part of the band – suits Darkstar down to the ground.
London electronic act Darkstar, originally realeasing singles at the forefront of Britain’s grime and garage world, had its breakthrough with the loved-up, refined dubstep anthem “Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer” in 2009 and followed it up quickly with Hyperdub full-length North. But while North featured crisp tracks like “Gold,” a slowed-down cover of a Human League b-side, News From Nowhere, the band’s first release on Warp, is earthy, warm and less daring than Darkstar’s previous forays into fresh electronic subgenres.Unlike North, it was recorded collectively by all three members, and it marks a serious departure from the previously tread territory. Darkstar seems to have turned from the U.K.
Electro trio travels further from the dancefloor, picking up new tricks as they go. Louis Pattison 2013 The Darkstar that we hear on News From Nowhere bears little resemblance to the production outfit that were bang on the "future garage" trend back in 2009 with their Hyperdub single, Aidy’s Girl Is a Computer. Even then, though, there were suggestions that the group – at the time, the duo of James Young and Aiden Whalley – were looking beyond the dancefloor for their kicks.