Monday, July 18th at (Le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street, New York City)
The synths remain, but since then, the band have adjusted their focus, and added a lead singer James Buttery to the production and writing team of James Young and Aiden Whalley. The result is a brave, low-key pop masterpiece, which discards with the cheap thrills and treadmill ideas that many deploy to access success. Instead, ‘North’ will creep up on you with each listen, seducing you with achingly gorgeous, synthesized song writing.
From the intro track ‘In The Wings’, right through to the closing song, a lush new version of ‘Squeeze My Lime’ now called ‘When It’s Gone’, the album blends their crunchy, citric synths, baroque strings, piano and tender guitar with vocal harmonies, gently laced with glitches and noise. Vocally here, Darkstar have subtly found the beauty in distortion.
The first single from the album, the catchy ‘Gold’, is a cover of a little known Human League song ‘You remind me of Gold’ inspired by hearing the original slowed to 33rpm. Insectoid drum machine rhythms carry the song along accompanied by a chilly piano. ‘Deadness’, ‘Dear Heartbeat’, ‘Two Chords’ and ‘North’ impress with their icy radiance, the rich, wafting strings, dreamy guitar and keys bury the otherwise snowy-white sonics, the crunch of the drums and the translucent vocals sounding as if they’re sung by a hologram. Some tracks, like ‘Ostkreuz’ and aspects of ‘Under One Roof’ conjure up a soundtrack to Twin Peaks if it was set in the North of England. Mini-anthem of 2009,’Aidy’s Girl is a Computer’ also earns a slot among the new material.
As their first long player, Darkstar have produced an album many bands with many more releases and experience under their belt can only dream of. Elegant, downbeat, breezy, sometimes melancholy and bleak, sometimes optimistic, ‘North’ will surprise many, a classic record for short days and long nights.