Over a short span of time, British trio Darkstar has moved from the fringes of dubstep to a fully formed and forward-thinking electronic pop project. Since the release of their debut sleeper hit, North
, on Hyperdub, they have joined the Warp label and their sophomore effort, News from Nowhere
, effectively warms and brightens their once frigid brand of cold wave. While maintaining their melodic and emotive sense of outsider pop, the trio takes the listener on an isolated journey into digital abstraction, organic beauty, and electronic textures. This exploration of warmer climes alludes to an update of the era of Colin Newman, Gary Numan, or Human League, and though I have often described them as "OMD gone dubstep," this new album pushes that fusion into a contemporary territory where Panda Bear and James Blake hang out.
The album was co-produced by Richard Formby, and together they weave a stellar sound design that doesn't abandon their love of low end for a bouquet of flowers (as the cover may suggest); the balance between dark and light are equally present throughout, as distortion, ambiance, and space are utilized to add tension and movement. The songs still incorporate skills learned while making dance music, only it's applied to a more seductive vision filled with warmth and beauty. Vocals sit atop a foundation of electronic production, but they use organic and natural sounds to flesh out the environment. This is more of a morning-after-the-rave/come-down type of listening experience, much like their debut, yet this one seems to shine in a way the previous album was steeped in cold and starkness, and in the end is more refreshing. Fans of any of the above, as well as Thom Yorke or the recent xx, or minimal emotive electronic pop, will find lots to get lost in here -- maybe the best surprise of the year so far.
-Daniel Givens (February 6, 2013)
"A Day's Pay for a Day's Work"