“One must not try to trick misfortune, but resign oneself to it with good grace.”
Guess who said that? Aristophanes silly! Yet Philippus’s son, an ancient Greek comic playwright, didn’t foresee that his observation on luck in 400BC would be so fitting to Darkstar all the way forward in 2013.
This trio, having signed to Sheffield’s Warp Records, then migrated further north to darkest Yorkshire where they spent, (thanks to a vicious accident), a whole year writing their second LP under both physical and metaphysical clouds.
And if you’re willing to work hard, then ‘News From Nowhere’ is a delight. It’s a warm, fuzzy and melodious journey. It’s possessed by a deep rotating rhythm that’s not initially apparent, so if you’re a fan looking for the instant snap of gratification of their last LP’s club track ‘Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer’, you may be disappointed.
“There’s definitely more depth,” explains the gruff James Young. “It’s definitely not as moody. We tried to make it a little bit lighter and more rhythmical.”
Another big change is that producer Richard Formby, an engineer for 4AD, Creation and Wild Beasts, played a huge role. Darkstar piled up north to feast on all his vintage tape machines but also discovered Formby had much more for them, in fact becoming an unofficial fourth member of the band: “It’s also nice when you get another person outside the band involved in that way, it gives you another perspective on the music,” chips in founding member Aidan Whalley.
Richard’s role however was to be a twisted one; having brought so much to the new Darkstar sound, luck would have her own way when towards the end of the recording residency he broke his back. “It was a real freak accident,” says James Young, sucking his teeth. “He was unloading the van and backed off a six-foot drop and landed with straight legs. He’s about an inch shorter now.”
Yet this agony allowed Darkstar to see that they had to push further on with their more ‘played’ and melodic blueprint. Now all their songs are based on personal experiences, and everything is recorded in live takes than sequenced entirely. Formby’s pain meant ‘News From Nowhere’ gained even more strength and depth.
There’s the lush organic and meandering tempos of ‘Timeaway’, the plaintive but searing ballad of ‘A Day’s Pay For A Day’s Work’ and the woozy ‘Armonica’ that strongly recalls the vocal/melody strata of Animal Collective, whilst ‘You Don’t Need A Weatherman’ is irrepressibly rhythmic, with pistons of life thriving through its melodious clouds of vocal shards.
As an LP it pushes irresistibly towards its end. Distinctly back-loaded it is like a lover who lures you deeper into a compromising embrace. So raise a glass to lady luck, her forces can be a blessing or a curse. But, like Darkstar did, always search for her silver lining - you might end up somewhere truly kinetically beautiful too.
‘HOLD ME DOWN’ (WARP)
‘YOU DON’T NEED A WEATHERMAN’ (WARP)
‘AIDY’S GIRL IS A COMPUTER’ (HYPERDUB)