Darkroom — We See the Same Stars Differently
(Bandcamp no#, 2016, DL)
Darkroom — The Axe Forgets but the Tree Remembers
(Bandcamp no#, 2016, DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2016-12-16
In the past, Darkroom has produced music in a variety of forms. There have been songs featuring vocalist Tim Bowness (no surprise given that half of Darkroom is No-Man / Samuel Smiles guitarist Michael Bearpark), expansive soundscapes of loops and effects, drifting electronic grooves, and ambient improvisation. The other half of the group is Andrew Ostler, who contributes electronics and processing as well as an occasional woodwind instrument. These two 2016 releases find them in long form, pretty far removed from the songs of an album like Seethrough. We See the Same Stars Differently contains two tracks that both top 24 minutes, and The Axe Forgets but the Tree Remembers features a single track nearly an hour in length. Obviously this is not music for people in a hurry. The title track of Stars journeys through several sections, from atmospheric guitar like Bearpark does with Samuel Smiles to distorted electronic noises of indeterminate origin to shortwave static and high-pitched echoes. The other Stars track is called “Redwood Variations I.” It is similar in wandering through sections of different instrumentation and mood, though distinct in its particulars. Lovely tones from what sounds like a flute provide a recurring motif (I hesitate to call it a “theme” since it’s more textural than melodic) and spacious guitar tones meander with indistinct noises and spacious atmospheres to produce a lovely meditative expedition.
The Axe Forgets features a clarinet in its opening, swathed in reverb and entangled with clouds of swelling guitar notes. The result, while not unlike the Travis & Fripp collaboration, comes off as more spontaneous and experimental, less planned and homogenized. Darkroom is improvisational at its core, though it is improvisation within a certain aesthetic — generally calm and consonant with occasional hints of dissonance, slowly unfolding with occasional periods of rhythmic motion. Rather than basking in calm beauty, however, they incorporate elements of modern glitchy electronics, white noise, and the unpredictable side effects of their equipment, like the clicks and pops of effects devices being turned on and off and the quirky interactions between devices. So while the overall effect is comparable to some ambient electronic music, there is a strong human feeling, the embracing of rough edges rather than smoothing them out. If you’re in a hurry, look elsewhere, even to some of Darkroom’s earlier releases, but if you are willing to spend some time with music, these are fascinating choices.
Related artist(s): Darkroom
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more