Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit


Darkstar – North
18 October 2010, 10:00 Written by Adrian Mules

It’s often hard to guess what cogs turn behind an electronic act from listening alone. Some albums are produced by bedroom-boffins who wire the hoover into the tumble-dryer to get that perfect sound. Others come from collectives operating in a model that resembles a traditional band. When last year’s mind-blowing single ‘Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer’ burst out of the Hyperdub stable doors questions about the make-up of Darkstar were raised. The single sounded unlike anything else, so who was making this wonderful music?

It turns out that the production team behind that track were James Young and Aiden Whalley. But since its release Darkstar have added an additional member in the form of singer James Buttery and recorded their debut album North.

Those expecting ten versions of ‘Aidy’s Girl’ will be mistaken; the rest of the album sounds nothing like it. In fact it sounds unlike anything else that’s gone before. Opening the album is ‘In The Wings’, a sweeping sci-fi score to a film that doesn’t exist, held together by a temperate piano line that underpins a fragile vocal. It’s here that the first stages of decay emerge; sounds begin to crumble and corrupt through crackles of digital distortion. It’s also here that the realisation that this is something pretty special sets in.

As the album pushes forward the walls between worlds between to cave in, it feels as if James Buttery is trying to reach out at times, but is held back by an unseen force. When he pushes hard the distortion shatters his voice into pieces. Despite the remarkably restrained and controlled orchestration, there’s an overwhelming sense of dread perpetrated by their haunting and articulate programming. Like a nightmare where you are aware that something is wrong, but are unable to ratify the source of the darkness.

It would come as no surprise to later discover that Darkstar is the code name for a cover-up of first contact from an alien race; one that has heard our music beamed into space and responded in what they assume is our mother tongue. North is one of those must hear records and also one of the finest albums released this year. It shatters all the expectations that were heaped upon it prior to its release by being more intriguing than anyone could have imagined.


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