Exposé Online banner

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

We See the Same Stars Differently Cover artThe Axe Forgets but the Tree Remembers Cover art

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.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Darkroom

Latest news

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Stick Man - Mysterious Female – Colorado's Neil Haverstick is now simply "Stick Man." For this writer, there used to be some shock value listening to music played on 19 tone (and even more unusual) scales, but after listening to...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues