Darkstar - North - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Darkstar - North

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2010-10-18

Gaining attention beyond the dubstep fraternity in 2009 with their lush, ambient oddity of a single, 'Aidy's Girl is a Computer', Darkstar looked set to follow Skream to mainstream acclaim. Since then, core members James Young and Aiden Whalley chose to shelve an entire album and add singer James Buttery to help them work on this, their debut proper.

The result is a desolate, wintery collection which positively aches with loneliness and melancholy. North certainly demonstrates this group's desire to look beyond dubstep for their reference points. 'Ostkreuz', named after a station on the Berlin subway, could fit snugly onto Bowie's Low or Heroes, or one of Brian Eno's ambient albums. Closing track 'When It's Gone', a reworking of single 'Squeeze My Lime', features the same slow procession and analogue horn sounds as Walter Carlos' classic soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange. The absorbingly beautiful sounds of 'Under One Roof' and 'Deadness', meanwhile, look to the austere yet vulnerable electronica of The Knife and Fever Ray.

North is full of lovely low-key moments such as these, but the album is a little too on the subtle side to crossover to a mainstream audience. Unfortunately, taken as a whole, it's also just a touch boring. North only has one setting, and its unchanging glacial pace means that its outstanding moments get a little lost next to less interesting tracks such as 'Gold' and the title track. Also, it has to be said, Buttery's thin, fey vocals contribute to the slightly insubstantial feeling which permeates the album. Despite the fragile emotions it explores, North is like a peering into a frozen stream: you know there's life trapped somewhere beneath the surface layer of ice but you just can't access it.

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