For Darkstar fans the band’s debut album, North, might have felt like an eternity in the making. Having established themselves with some strong singles on Hyperdub in the past couple of years, the then duo took an unexpected moment of self-reflection, deciding that creating an album’s worth of vibrant low-end synth music had suddenly lost its appeal. Following this change of heart, the band added vocalist James Buttery and switched their style significantly, crafting a down tempo pop album which has little in common with Hyperdub’s past glories.
U.K. electronic duo Darkstar's debut LP, North, displays an astonishing level of growth and maturity when compared to their earlier hyperkinetic dubstep material. Grime and dubstep are touchstones, especially on the title track, but songs like “Under One Roof” and “Deadness” hearken back to David Bowie and Brian Eno's collaborations from the late '70s.
New Musical Express (NME) - 70 Based on rating 3.5/5
The north of England, with its coal dust-stained mythologies, has a legacy of producing pop forged from mechanical parts. [a]OMD[/a], [a]The Human League[/a], [b]John Foxx[/b]: all answered their industrial geography with synthesized music; grey skies equal cold synths. A cliché maybe, but like how music documentaries will always show a shot of an autobahn to the strains of [a]Kraftwerk[/a], one based in truth.There are times when [b]James Young[/b] and [b]Aiden Whalley[/b] look like they’re aligning [a]Darkstar[/a] with such a tradition in a bid to escape the London scene which nurtured them.
North is a synth-pop album, and not synth-pop like general concept but synth-pop like historical formality. It's faithful to OMD, Kraftwerk, and a lot of other technocratic future-music made mostly in England and Western Europe during the 1970s and 80s. Here, Darkstar's beauty is the cold kind. They walk the empty streets in military rhythms and luxuriate in solitude.
Touted duo add singer and ditch dubstep for melancholy synth-pop. Paul Lester 2010 Released on the Hyperdub label in 2009, the single Aidy’s Girl Is a Computer won Darkstar acclaim outside of the dubstep constituency and signalled their intention to go beyond that world. They made an even more decisive break when the duo of James Young and Aiden Whalley binned a whole album of cyborg dubstep late last year, drafted in a singer, James Buttery, and started from scratch.