Consequently the album is deeply impressionistic in its textures and pacing, taking time to unwind and unfold. Whilst there’s a certain amount of abstract, glitchy corrosiveness scored across the album, Darkroom supply music that whilst being relatively static, is nevertheless richly warm and melodic.
The title track has an endearing brittle poppiness that recalls the amiable sunniness of some vintage kraut rock excursions, and the stately Mercury Shuffle recreates the slow blissful waves of guitar that could almost be outtakes from John Martyn’s sepulchral epic, Small Hours.
Bearpark will be known to some listeners as member of the live No-Man group and as such you’d expect from that kind of standard there’s a wonderful poise and attention to detail. Dreamy, aquatic-sounding Fender Rhodes, pulsating vaguely dub-like atmospherics, and sublimely stirring strings conjure up what might happen if Paul Schutze made an album with Michael Brook.
This is a varied and approachable set that caters for moments of introspective contemplation (lots of glissando-type guitar forlornly fading off into space) and more expressive moods and moments. It’s worth mentioning the drumming of Andrew Booker (also in the live No-Man band) whose whip-cracking snare work and fizzing cymbals on the groovesome Two Is Ambient (and elsewhere) brings both definition and a welcome velocity to the overall shape of things.
Original article here.
The pace is slow, then, but there’s plenty to admire along the way. ‘My Sunsets Are All One-Sided’ develops cleverly, gentle beginnings gradually being overcome by tides of bit-crushed percussion; ‘Chalk Is Organised Dust’ blends hypnotic acoustic phrases with free-jazz drumming and string-like electric guitar pads. There’s enough dissonance and darkness to balance out the sweetness on display, and even the longest tracks never appear directionless.
Original article here.
Anyway, Bearpark plays guitar with a lot of effects, and Os does electronics. That is pretty much it, making Darkroom similar to any number of bands going these days (i.e., Worriedaboutsatan, Voyager 1, Sealions, etc.). That is, effects and electronics seems to be the current trend in mellow, ambientish bands.
Except that Darkroom are not following the trend. You see, Some of These Numbers Mean Something is their eighth album in ten years. Not only are they among the forebears of this style, they are actually rather productive as well.
And it seems odd to me that i have never heard of them before. I mean, this music is right up my alley, and yet this is my introduction to the band. Huh. That just goes to show that there is lots of interesting things out there. More than you can ever know, i guess.
Darkroom start off Some of These Numbers Mean Something with the simmering The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Electronics burble and the guitar whines under an eBow, building slowly. The title track is next, which chiming guitars and more intensive rhythms than the previous tune. My Sunsets Are All One Sided breaks things up a bit. It starts with a long minimalist interlude, chiming sparse guitar and a faint synth echo, but grows slowly into a dense, throbbing tune.
I could go on and describe the remaining 5 tunes, but i think you get the point. This is instrumental music with a hint of the ambient to it, and some occasional echo-y dub moments. Darkroom give us about 47 minutes worth on this disc, and if you like this kind of stuff then i think you will enjoy Some of These Numbers Mean Something.
That said, i don't think that Darkroom are really doing anything all that unique here. That is – there is nothing going on here that i don't have on several other CDs. Darkroom are not (with this release at least) breaking new ground, but it is an engaging listen nonetheless. They have a firm grasp of dynamics, and their music flows with the collaborative ease that a pair that has lasted for 10 years naturally comes to. And there are some brilliant moments strewn about – the heavily echoed end to Chalk Is Organized Dust really sticks in my mind.
So my recommendation is – if you like spacey rock, give Darkroom a listen.
Full review here.
Full review here.
Full chart here.
- Barrie Sillars
Being a modern outfit, they could naturally be classified alongside others like Boards Of Canada, Chroma Key and Tortoise, but they also have a deep influence from older artists such as Fripp & Eno, Ash Ra, Cluster and the like. An association with Tim Bowness of No-man and being on the Burning Shed label ought to get them the attention of the Porcupine Tree crowd. But regardless of all that, they should be noticed because they are damn good.
After doing a little research and checking out some samples, the music on some of these numbers mean something is a tad bit heavier than the other material they have out primarily due to the participation of guest drummer Andrew Booker. Andrew has also played in No-man as well as the Harmony In Diversity project that featured Peter Banks. He also hosts a live music series called Improvizone that the members of Darkroom play a large part in.
Michael Bearpark’s guitar work on this album is very impressive. The info for this album on their web site describes it as “guitar under a microscope” and I would have to agree with that even though it might not make perfect sense. There are some subtle and very beautiful guitar parts on this album that remind me of folks like Michael Brook, Robert Fripp and Manuel Gottsching. There’s also a slight country twang at times that brings to mind Chill Out from KLF or maybe I’m thinking about Godspeed You Black Emperor.
About the only criticism I could give this release is that the some of the song titles are a bit goofy. Names like “Two Is Ambient”, “Chalk Is Organised Dust” and “No Candy No Can Do” are just plain silly…they need to stop that. But if that’s the only thing bad I can say about the disc, this must be a pretty great album. I do really like the picture of the Concorde on the cover. Really lends an air of retro nostalgia to the design.
So why didn’t anybody tell me about Darkroom? This is something that I would have definitely been grateful to find out about. When none of my friends or family lets me in on these things I have to get this information off the streets. While I might need to apologize for all the namedropping in this review, I would honestly suggest that if you are into any of those names, you should definitely check this out.
Full review here
Full review here
Darkroom is an ambient/electronica group comprised of Michael Bearpark (guitar) and Andrew "Os" Ostler (keyboards and loops). They describe their sound as a cross between freeform jazz and Fripp/Eno-style ambient looping. The brief for Some of These Numbers Mean Something (sometimes abbreviated SOFTMS), released last October 10th, describes the album as "guitar under a microscope." The press release defines it further as a combination 70s space rock, 80s Sheffield electronica, 60s guitar instrumentals and 90s post rock. The 70s and 60s descriptions seemed quite apt for the opening track, "The Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes", which sounded quite psychedelic and dream-like. Continuing on, the release states:
Seems to be a fair statement. The guitar licks throughout the album have a very old-school, organic feel to them, although the electronica tones sound more contemporary much of the time. Either way, it does remind me slightly of music when "classic" rockers played synthesizers with much less shame and Brian Eno was still ahead of his time. Moreover, Improvizone, which describes itself as "recurring live music evening of electronic/ambient/chillout beats and soundscapes by people with amplified instruments and bits and pieces of technology", in which Darkroom performs from place to place, goes further. "If the first thing that surprised me was how composed the music is on this album, the second was what Os did with the drums," wrote Andrew Booker (who has also performed with them) on the Improvizone site. It definitely sounds like the two really strive to keep their recordings as close to their live performances without the need for heavy editing.
Mixing classic synthesizer & guitar tones with contemporary post-production, this album combines improvisation with carefully crafted and layered arrangement, and rewards repeated listening.
When not working with Darkroom, Os runs a site called Expert Sleepers, where he makes music software for Mac OS and Windows, some of which was used for SOFTMS.
You can pick up Some of These Numbers Mean Something through burningshed.com or itunes
Full review here
On Some of These Numbers Mean Something, Darkroom create beat-driven ambient soundscapes made up of Mike’s loop-based guitar playing and Os’ keyboards and synths. The beats are mostly of the electronic variety, but on several tracks fellow Improvizone contributor Andrew Booker lends a hand with live drums. The problem with the live drums is not with the quality of drumming, but the way they mesh with the rest of the music. The sprawling ambience Darkroom creates is much better suited to electronic beats and bits of real drums cut up and run through effects than actual drums. On “Mercury Shuffle” for example, the drums sound like they were recorded to a click track without ever hearing the actual song. At the opposite end of the spectrum is “No Candy No Can Do”. The intricate beat is spread widely across the speakers and chirps like a march of little mechanical bugs.
The six-minute title track is the highlight of the record. It opens with a simple riff on electric guitar with a great sounding delay. Subtle harmonic bits are added into the loop and seem to weave together to form a guitar tapestry. As the beat drops and the song gains momentum, one guitar riff after another steals the spotlight, each with varying tones and effects. “Chalk Is Organised Dust” lives up to its great name and features some relaxing acoustic guitar and a really nice string sample. The beat for this track is one made up of both electronics and live drums and for the most part manages to work pretty well. “Insecure Digital” is an example of the types of ambient soundscapes these two are capable of creating without a beat to guide them. Ambient improvised noodling is clearly Darkroom’s strong suit, and I would have liked to see more than just this excellent two minute track on the album.
At more than a few points during the album I felt that the songs could have used a bit more structure. It’s difficult to hold this against the two, because they mainly play in an improvisational setting and that atmosphere could have been what they were after on this release. The nine tracks on this disc are a bit hit and miss, even within themselves, but there are enough satisfying moments spread throughout to keep me on the lookout for Darkroom’s next effort.
- Brenton Dwyer
Full review here.
Although I play on several tracks on SOTNMS, I feel impartial enough to be able to write about it, having had very little to do with making this music beyond turning up to my regular practice session in a rehearsal room in Tottenham Hale on Wednesday 16 April 2008 and flapping a couple of sticks up and down for a few hours. Hardly hard work for me.
Plenty of hard work has gone into this album though. The first thing that strikes me when I listen is the complexity of this work, relative to what you would expect from a group known for its ambient output. This is an album that Os has painstakingly put together out of Mike's guitar parts and his keyboard textures, and it's an approach that works really well. You get the Bearpark spontaneity and ingenuity that we're used to hearing live, and you get to hear what Os is capable of when he doesn't have to do live looping during a gig. There are organised chord and mood changes, and pieces with solid forms and arrangements.
For example, opener The Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes has the initial signs of a techno track, but its programmed beat is a framework for a series of sinister/melancholy Bearpark phrases, sweeping in at different registers. As much rock action as ambience.
If the first thing that surprised me was how composed the music is on this album, the second was what Os did with the drums. I thought he wanted material for looping. In other words, during the session, I was trying to play reasonably well, but wasn't bothering about getting a good take. I'd never heard the material, and assumed Os would just chop and loop the good bits of what was usually a single take. I didn't realise he was going to use large sections of unedited playing. Perhaps neither did he. Mercury Shuffle, the most straight-ahead track on the album, is a case in point. The feel is late summer evening looking west over a Dagenham factory as the sun sets. By the sound of it, Os used the drums pretty much as I played them. Towards the end I start messing up, and take the entire track down with me.
My Sunsets Are All One-Sided begins with a 50s electronica Raymond Scott feel with something that sounds like a steel drum in reverse. Then some rolling taps echo in the background, and it takes on an new shape and the excitement mounts, pauses a couple of times, then swoops back in with pounding piano, offbeat post-rock distorted drums and looped guitar swells. It's pretty thrilling.
More futuristic electronica arrives in the form of No Candy No Can Do, a piece full of character and one of my favourites, with a sublime jazzy lilt and lounge guitar sounding like it was played in an enormous 23nd century shopping mall. Terrific, and contrasted nicely by the next piece, Two Is Ambient. This one has a thrillingly sinister and menacing downbeat groove, acoustic guitar adding to the tension and unease. Dirty drums drag in and out, it goes gently mad towards the end, slowly taking itself to pieces around the meandering beat.
In the brilliantly titled Chalk Is Organised Dust, sci-fi sweeps and burbles give way to a wiry string section and a slightly wonky assembly-line shuffling drum loop. Like watching an amateur production of Fritz Lang's Metropolis played out in telephone exchange in the 1940s, from your vantage point on a grassy knoll. Following the bitter-sweet pastorale of Insecure Digital which finishes all too soon, the album closes with an acoustic flourish introducing Turtles All The Way Down, which quickly descends into some demonic Bearpark distortion. By the time the drums kick in, it's gripping, the tense pulsing and chugging guitar constantly suggesting it's going to break into something else. It doesn't. In the end, again the drums fall apart and take the rest of the track with them.
Overall, the album is a great showcase for the dual Darkroom strengths. Mike's endless imagination and sound palette with Os's arrangement and production skills combine to a fine mix of beauty and tension. While albums of this genre, constructed from samples recycled from other music, can sound awkward and disjointed, this one is no Frankenstein's Monster. All the source material is organically home-grown, and the result is coherent and human.
While they were chosing the album cover, Mike showed me the candidates. His favourite was the dated concord photo, in its a day an image of the future, now a dated relic. I particularly like this, Mike said, pointing to the flowery-patterned fold-up chair in the bottom left corner. Improvizone regular Nick Cottam and I were in a cheesy band several years ago, for which, as a symbol of my appreciation of this, I am happy to tell you I wore a thin nylon shirt with a strikingly similar design.
Original post here
Darkroom (www.darkroomtheband.net), as you all know, are LD members Michael Bearpark on guitars and loops and Andrew "Os" Ostler on keyboards and laptop. Guest musician on this album is electric drummer Andrew Booker who runs the Improvizone concert series in London - Darkroom + Andrew Booker are Improvizone's backbone and play on most of their gigs, often with guest musicians (e.g. I had the privilege to play with them last November, see the livelooping2007 page on my website). Usually, Os controls his own Augustus Loop plugin to loop not only his synths but also Mike's guitar while sending a clock signal to Andrew for the drums so that he can synchronize his drum delays, to add further rhythmical complexity.
btw two weeks ago I was very happy to see Mike Bearpark and Andrew Booker as part of singer Tim Bowness's band No-Man on the German leg of their September mini-tour - they did a wonderful job and it was a great evening.
The new Darkroom album ("file under Ambient Stadium Rock") contains nine improvised pieces. Mike's guitars are generally in the foreground - so much that the original album title was "place guitar under microscope". What strikes me every time I listen to Darkroom, and also on this album, is their specific sound: it is an organic whole - evolving, open, and full of rich textures while often containing surprising changes. There is never extensive soloing - maybe that would stand out too much and is therefore sacrificed for the sake of a more organic group sound. While Os contributes beautiful, often cinematic washes of chords, the complex and energetic rhythmic foundation laid down by Andrew Booker and the various distortion sounds often applied to Mike's guitars turn the Darkroom sound into something that often definitely goes beyond mere ambient music. Ambient with teeth, maybe.
My absolute favorite on this one is "No Candy No Can Do" which combines gorgeous Rhodes arpeggios, Hawaiian guitars and dreamy, unusual dub-like rhythms - this track is drenched in reverb and reminds me very much of 50's exotica, not so much because of the sound but because it immedately switches on images of faraway islands in my brain. Wonderful!
Buy this album today from http://www.burningshed.com/store/darkroom/product/16/1172/
- Michael (www.michaelpeters.de)
Original post here
Full review here.
I'm delighted to say they agreed. I sent them rough cuts of the three pieces I was working on, which included "temp tracks" indicating where I wanted music. The tracks were also indicative of the mood of the music I was after, but not necessarily the sound. I didn't want cover versions of the temp tracks - what would be the point?
As I understand it Mike and Os recorded the music in just four hours, remarkable given their usual method of working, the amount of material and the variety of tones needed. The music had to move from sinister to dramatic to sad to purposeful all within a few seconds, and all with recurring themes for each of the story's "characters": the robbers, the family caught up in the raid, and the police.
The music I received (before the deadline! Always appreciated) was exactly what I was after, and all, for better or worse, without a single telephone conversation. As far as I'm aware this is the first time original music has been commissioned "just" for a news programme, not documentary.
I would recommend anyone in need of incidental music with a twist to get in touch with Darkroom. SO much better than those shelves full of dull library music.
That's the legend, anyway. And that was a lot of people's introduction to Collective.
This demo CD (a kinder, gentler Collective, but still damn scary) was originally going to be called 'Autopsy', and you can see why. Os' disorienting, dreamlike electrophonic textures (as opposed to keyboard parts). The sort of beats that either quietly explode somewhere in the inner ear or create the impression of silent drumsticks just missing your head. Warm. Cold. Rage under glass, etching it like an acid. Surgical hallucinations. Fascinatingly numbing. David Lynch hijacking The Orb. Grieving under sedation, surrounded by clean and impassive white walls. 'Soundtracks' may be song-free, and devoid of recognisable tunes, but this is still intriguing, uncomfortable, weirdly beautiful music.
Reminiscent of the more bizarre moments on Scott Walker's 'Tilt' (in particular 'Face On Breast' - that one with the thudding, boxing glove drum pulse and the voice squashed like a fly), or of the Aphex Twin's forays into voices, Collective's music is a weave of tight-but-discreet loops and big eccentric spirals which are too unusual for obvious patterns to emerge. Looming in the middle distance, guitarist Mike seems to be under the impression that he's playing an angle-grinder most of the time. Think industrial Frippertronics rather than skysaw, though: truly textural and most unorthodox, though his parts are the closest Collective comes to direct melody. When not carving wounds and dark shapes, or hums and snarls, he plays autistic-angel chorus guitar, like a darker and colder Fripp ('Storm Angel', 'Requiem', 'Here Comes The Flood').
Tim's vocals - the human edge to Collective's alienation - are shocking. Wordless, abstract, swinging dangerously between teary, vulnerable wonder and scorching, screaming anger, they're torn up out of his throat like an exorcism, or like someone speaking in tongues and fighting against it. Free-form, wandering: sometimes outraged, sometimes deranged. Using his full range from whisper to scream, from baritone groan to falsetto lament to a deep-throated keening roar: a bit like Tim Buckley's 'Starsailor' but more naked, lost, dangerously unstable. Certainly a change from the usual sugary or doped-out mumbling you get on most post-rock/electronica projects (q.v. Labradford, Insides).
From the suffering trance of 'Vladimir' (like the extraction of a tooth by hypnosis) to the muttering interplay of fretless bass and voice on 'Mindbreath', from the waves of ringing child-call in 'No History' (over a slow wash of breakbeats), to the patter and dizziness of 'Crashed', 'Soundtracks' is bewitching and quite alien. Collective play us out with the withdrawn enigma of 'Alien Grace', on which Os and Mike, left to their own devices, stare each other down and compete at a sort of minimalist's game of chicken, playing off each other with the minimum of notes while still unpicking the stitches in the fabric of sound. Music from the dark nodes of the mind, deeper than fear.
The billowing instrumentals of Darkroom's first album, 'Daylight', made their points obliquely through a spray of trip-hop grace, thick detail and industrial derangement. And about half of 'Seethrough' follows a similar path - baleful/beautiful semi-improvised noisescapes of layered electronics, angrily stewing loop guitar and naked, caress-through-to-howl voice. The glutinous, dubbed-up 'Galaxy Craze' has resident synth necromancer Os firing off ratlike background rattles and spectral drum'n'bass rhythm triggers - a threatening arrhythmic undulation with Tim Bowness' minimal, wraithlike subway singing menaced by fretless-bass probing like a giant animal's tongue.
In contrast to the aviary-heat of Michael Bearpark's textured guitar, old-school '80s synthpop riffs underpin 'Charisma Carpenter'. These OMD tinklings are an unexpectedly cheerful counterpart to Tim's lustrous, vaporous vocal chanting - always the most bizarre aspect of Darkroom's music. Singing mere tumbling vowels or sounds on the edge of becoming words, he delivers them with an eerily precise, chilly diction: like droplets of lovesong, freezing to alien sleet as soon as they leave his mouth.
Only 'Kaylenz', though, hints at the shocking intensity of Darkroom on full, live, improvising intensity. Fourteen sprawling, disorientating minutes with the tension between the celestial and the pestilential growing ever more violent. Electronica loops shade upwards into alarm, distorted hospital bells shrill, and the country-toned guitar tang gives way to sharp buzz-edged swarming. The vocals, too, travel from weary, loving sorrow to a hysterical pitch of recriminations and a dash of lyrical perversity. Just before 'Kaylenz' steps up - or breaks down - into a chaotic torrent of frighteningly emotional randomness, we hear Tim singing in a lost corner of the studio. A bored, beautiful detached whisper of "you again, you again - / who's to blame, if it's all the same?"
Which brings us to the wild card of 'Seethrough' - presenting Darkroom's songwriting side, sketching withering surreal portraits of disenchantment and alienation helped along by spacey glissandos of electric slide guitar. They've dabbled in words before (on the drum'n'bass/Fripp & Eno soundclash of the 'Carpetworld' single) but here it's more leisurely, more controlled, more disturbing. In some ways extending Tim's work on the cryptic dark-city musings of No-Man's 'Wild Opera', in others it reflects the burnt-out, amoral contemplations of Tricky's surreal, spliff-fuelled 'Maxinquaye'. Although if so, this is Tricky as played by Alec Guinness, dropping casual, vinegar-dry references to both Def Leppard and Janet Frame while somehow maintaining a ghostly mystique unhindered by the flapping of library cards. On the bobbing Morricone-meets-Orb dub of 'King Of The Cowboy Singers', Tim's guarded, musical speaking voice recites both nonsense and significance to the beat - "trying to find a new life in an old boot, /
walking to the new place in your old suit - / the king of the cowboy singers, / the toast of the Old School dinners..." The roiling, improvised star-stuff that usually pools out of Darkroom's speakers is swapped for Dada-tinged narratives of shifting identities and habits, of introverted, stiffly English insanity and implosions of starched order.
But if Darkroom are no longer playing live from the surface of the sun, they've only retreated as far as a ski-lodge on Mercury. The glimpses of sky are always a bright merciless glare, the ground always dry dust, the scenery just a few steps away from white-out. Surly and blinded, 'Bludgeon Riffola' surfaces through a swimming of harness bells as a filthy punk-blues fed through post-rock and tracer-paths of needling synth-noise, Tim's petulant vocals rope-swung and curdled with distortion. And the album's masterpiece - the ten-minute stretch of 'Bottleneck' - is blindingly white and exposed; a sinister mixture of Aphew Twin and Bill Frisell. Sparse, desolate slide guitar is chewed at by Os' echoing dead-sea-surf static and smeared brass textures. Tim's lonesome vocal (once it finally arrives) rides a stately dance of plucked orchestra strings, drawing out the shapes of a puzzle of betrayal and disgust. The charges are clear - "You never really loved your wife... / you never really knew your boys... / you never even liked the girl you said had claimed your heart - restart, restart." But the story's obscured: gaps between snapshots swallow it up. The figure of a man is reduced to a hat, a cigarette; an unfinished meal; an absence.
Then again, Darkroom aren't here to provide clarity. 'Seethrough' itself seals the album in a light and feverish running pulse, frosted by far-off gilded sprays of quiet prog rock guitar. It's tremulously sweet and frantic - trance-techno that's neurotic rather than narcotic - and with a blurred, vocoder-ed vocal that queries the giddy transcendence of the music. "Too much misunderstanding; too much, too little love. / Too much to keep your hand in, too much to float above." Dancing lightly on its feet, it moves with the crowd only to slip away quietly as the dreams evaporate. "Too much deliberation, too much you want to be. / Too much anticipation, too much you'll never see - see through, seethrough."
Blink, and it's gone. Darkroom tease us with clarity, but lead us to a vanishing in the end.
Original article here
Nonetheless, 'Fallout 3' initially seems something of a let-up from Darkroom's unsettling dark-ambient explorations. Os, the group's synthesist and studio-flexer, now seems to be exerting most of the active control over the emerging music. On this occasion he does this through drastically remixing more of those Darkroom live tapes which have spawned the 'Fallout' series. This time it's "a celebration of the art of post-production", compressing their rich and chaotic improvised sprawl into a thickening wall of noise. Darkroom as jelly, rather than the usual coils of prismatic vapour. In the process, it displays a side of the group which may well appeal more to those ambient aficionados and art/noise acolytes who've so far proved immune to - or unconscious of - their brooding wide-open power.
This time, the art-rock richness of Tim Bowness' keening, beautiful-agony vocal (previously something of a scene-stealer, especially at its most Hammill-esque) drifts faintly through the mix like a displaced ghost. Half-obscured, half-dreamy, its physical presence fades to a livid imprint. The industrial-melodic textures of Mike Bearpark's guitars and his layered MiniDisc manipulations have sunk even deeper than before into the fabric of Darkroom sounds, as have the body of most of the drum loops. The most audible instruments to be heard for this latest hour-and-a-quarter of Darkroom are the humble studio fader and the reverb unit, teasing their way through building detail.
Turned right down, 'Fallout 3' sounds like the smooth peanut butter to the crunchy variety of 'Fallout 1' and '2'. But turned up, the music piles up inexorably like a thick fluid, shot through with veins of displaced voices. Sometimes they're Bowness, processed almost beyond recognition to become muttering crowds or alien choirboys; sometimes they're radio voices stroked out of the ether by Os' continuing casual interest in plunderphonics. The little instrumental dialogues and monologues that used to weave through Darkroom pieces have been melted down too. All goes to feed this amorphous monster.
The result is that - more than ever - Darkroom's music has the amnesiac, dissolving qualities of oceans. Powerful, ever-massing, and strangely indifferent to the repercussions of its nature. Although the sound's closer to dry land, if perhaps not stable ground. The continuously rumbling geological depth and the thick "angry-earth" quality to the sound brings this reinvented Darkroom closer to the relentless, tectonic grind of Robert Hampson's dark-ambient process music with Main. And like Main's, the pieces on 'Fallout 3' are much of a muchness: all slightly differing curves on a line mostly heading in one direction, arcing beyond post-rock to the land of out-rock. There's far less of the more identifiable "Fripp & Eno swimming in Lee Perry's galactic fishtank" tendencies of the past - the always diffuse identities of the Darkroom players are now barely there at all. The music has turned them inside out.
Consequently this is seventy-five minutes of impressive and utter liquefaction that's still identifiably Darkroom. And which also enables them to thumb an invisible nose at past accusations of formlessness. Even when their musical substance is reduced to something as intangible as this, Darkroom's baleful and beautiful intent remains intact: something far beyond the easy trance to which most electronic acts are finally reduced. Their vision is still inexplicable and alien. It's also still undeniable.
Neither kinder nor gentler, then. Just even more seductively suffocating and inscrutable.
Original article here
Subtracting the singer should have meant removing the human face from Darkroom's activities, and forcing their music - with its hanging menace, dense atmospherics and chaotic leanings - further down the road to alienation. In fact, the opposite is true. Minus those fragmentary Bowness sighs, whispers and melodic wails, Darkroom relinquish some of their edge of romance and distress. But they also dispel a lot of the intimations of human disintegration, morbidity and panic that those beautifully tortured vocal tones brought to the project. In his absence, Darkroom is able to relax and experiment with a two-way balance instead of the three-way teeter they'd thrived on previously. Os and Michael sit back and play off each other - not in unison, but in a dialogue of occasional crossings and of deceptive, mock-disengaged responses.
As with 'Fallout One', the two-man Darkroom continue to embrace instinctive wandering noise-stews rather than art-rock discipline. For this album, they're gentler brews - the first beginning with a serene duet of heaven-scented loop guitar and a windblown squiggle of pink noise. Released from some of his duties as textural foil, it's Michael who now gives the music its anchors - cyclic calling phrases, sometimes humming confections of layered Frippertronic-like loops, sometimes space-echoed licks, sometimes a sound like someone wrenching their way out of a giant metal tank. Os, as usual, takes responsible for most of the layers of sonic detail and for the most drastic directional shifts within Darkroom's ever-restless improvisations.
Os' increasing plunderphonic tendencies (linking and threading pieces with snippets of international radio conversation, Cambridge choristers, muezzin calls) prove that behind his responsibilities for the body of Darkroom's sound, he's also the joker in the Darkroom pack. He dials up effects and textures from a vast trickbag of electronic sounds which he then sloshes across the speakers and leaves to evolve. His rhythms, too, betray a sense of cool, amused mischief. He'll stitch in trails of techno beats, or hijack a piece five-and-a-half minutes in with jazzy cymbals and toms drenched in flapping dub treatments. He'll even drop in the occasional comedy drum wallop to accompany some blooping synth sounds apparently stolen off a kiddy-ride in a shopping center. Inscrutable humour aside, he also assembles a remarkable variety of imposing psychedelic cadences, static veils and suggestive electrophonic shapes to flesh out Darkroom's randomness.
Though Michael Bearpark's playing still owes a debt to Robert Fripp (via the "Bearatronics" loops and occasional digressions into trumpet-guitar), he's far less formally-minded. And while you could also draw parallels to the mangled roots sounds David Torn uses in his sPLaTTeRCeLL project, Michael is a far more reticent, distant and watchful guitarist: less flamboyant, but similarly eclectic. Across the album he comes up with the kind of junkyard guitar that Marc Ribot would be proud of, or treats us to yanks and scrabbles of twanging guitar in the vein of Henry Kaiser or Fred Frith. He unwinds collapsing, Spanish-guitar-style electric rolls; or feeds in the Bill Frisell-influenced ghost-country minimalism that he's increasingly stamped onto Darkroom music. Os responds with gusty, gauzy swirls of noise, or busies himself chopping up the sound even as Michael enriches it.
It's co-operation of a kind, I suppose. Sometimes the Bearpark/Os interplay is gloriously subtle; more often, they're engaged in a game of reverse-chicken in which they seem to be seeing just how far they can wander from each other's playing before Darkroom collapses, adding a kind of free-jazz risk to the elements of illbience, Krautrock and musique concrete that already flourish in the group's sound. Darkroom's abstract shapelessness - or, more accurately, their indifference to and boredom with the monotonous formality of much electronic music - seems to put a lot of people off, but their loosely-knit and liberated music still has few rivals or peers in electronica.
Original article here
Still more or less unknown, they've been making the most of this anonymity to continue to explore their unsettling take on ambient music, unencumbered by the demands of the more familiar electronica clubs or by any micro-cultures other than their own. The 'Fallout' trilogy (of which this is the first installment) is the result. Unadulterated Darkroom live and in the raw, with the song experiments and the more disciplined aspects of their last album 'Seethrough' abandoned in order for the group to embrace more of the chaotic, massy, polytextural wanderings that they touched on in their 'Daylight' debut.
The tracks on 'Fallout One' are functionally numbered, 'One' to 'Seven'. Not one of them is graced with a name or clue of any kind - no sine-wave surfing, no snippets of French or intimations of disturbance, no jokes, not even any nods to Darkroom's old Samuel Beckett fetish. Any associations which you make are entirely your own. And Darkroom don't guide. They drift through their music with a mixture of utter authority and confusing haphazardness, stirring ideas in and spinning them out. You can't place yourself with this music - merely live with it.
'Fallout One' also emphasises an increasing musical dominance by Os, the synthesist corner of the Darkroom triangle. Fresh from his solo adventures outside Darkroom in Carbon Boy, Os brings in the glut of shortwave radio voices from that project, disrupts Darkroom's light-footed beats into free-jazz stumbles, and regularly distorts and destroys any settled landscapes that the group have settled on with his relentless mutations of dense electronics. Michael Bearpark, lurking in the background, concentrates on turning his guitar into a slowhand blur of inscrutable forbidding noise and building up aquamarine loops like a coldly psychotic take on Michael Brook.
Most displaced now is abstract singer Tim Bowness. Whenever his vocals appear, they're as shocked, drowning, incoherent whoops and keens; always half-submerged in the swirl of choking ambience and psychedelic space echo that his collaborators are cooking up. As ever, the effect is similar to the contorted vocal tapestries of Tim Buckley's 'Starsailor', but this time being gradually sucked down a black hole, protesting all the way.
Caught as live as this, Darkroom's music is more disorientating and disturbing than it's ever been before on album. Though always too lushly endowed with timbre and detail to be unrelentingly hostile, it offers little in the way of chill-out calm or methodical reassurance. Even the gentler tracks such as 'Three' or 'Four' regularly see Darkroom's more pastoral landscapes bent out of shape - a mantric Bowness chant of "say" will be overcome by data squirts and snippets of Gregorian chant; a hum of guitar will be scratched over by a violently juddering, reedy electronic screech; clicking needles will have a strange banana-boat yodel stretched across them. And throughout, Os' sculpting of the sounds induces sonic meltdown. Hiccups of sounds, whale song, a mutilated loop of geothermal Mellotron or a dignified broadcaster's voice will all be sucked up, shredded and blown out, or brought round and round like a small corpse flattened onto a moving tyre.
Darkroom offer nothing easy in their collision of the beautiful, the horror-inducing and the plain distorted. 'Fallout One' is music for dissolving cities - a coolheaded embracing of confusion.
Original article here
This is the fourth live release for Darkroom, after the 'Fallout' trilogy on the 'Burning Shed' label, following two solo albums and a studio EP - almost as if to intentionally underline the predominantly improvisational nature of the band, headed by Os and Michael Bearpark. The three long tracks featuring on this record, each with a duration of between twenty and twenty-five minutes, reveal a Tim Bowness-like absence, characterised in the form of monumental pieces, entirely instrumental; the influence of Fripp & Eno's work on Darkroom seems undeniable, just listen to the first track recorded during rehearsals with Bearpark and Os along with the contribution of Simon H. Fell on acoustic bass, where it's not hard to pick up on similarities with the Swastika Girls. Much more expansive, both in terms of atmosphere and duration (at 24 minutes and 38 seconds), is the second track recorded at the Unitarian Church of Cambridge: here the work of Bearpark and Os pushes toward obsessive repetition, following an electro-minimalist beat which evolves in aerial spirals that hold the listener under siege, between rarefication in the extreme, and echoes of The Heavenly Music Corporation. The initial portion of the third track is basted with liquid guitar arpeggios, recorded at the Portland Arms in Cambridge with a lineup including Peter Chilvers on bass, dispersing itself into a tight study of loops that recall the style of concise composition on their brilliant first album 'Daylight'. Far from showing signs of fading, Darkroom confirm themselves again as one of the more couragious acts in the world of ambient electronica. 'Freefall', like Peter Chilvers' album 'Free' is not commercially available but is in free circulation; follow the instructions given in the review of 'Free' to obtain a copy of Darkroom's new album for yourself.
The first track by Freefall is entitled Rehearsal, Royston 26/1/2003 Mike and Os with Simon H. Fell (acoustic bass) are the persons who are responsible for the music. This 20 minute long track slowly evolves into a beautiful ambient soundscape, in which dreamy atmospheres go together with harmonic frequencies. Lovey dark and gentle waves slowly meander into warm hypnotic ambiences where some occassional psychedelic sounds concrète have been added.
Both next tracks are live. The first one, 24 minutes long, has been recorded at during the Bleepfest at the Unitarian Church, Cambridge 21/11/2002. Again Mike and Os offer a calm sensitive approach in which tranquilizing dark ambient slowly gets denser and starts to make the speakers vibrate.
The last track is a live recording by Mike and Os with Peter Chilvers (electric bass). Calm electronics and some bass have been combined with spoken word samples in the background. The second part of the piece gets more hectic. More musical elements are used and the sounds change more often, ending an excellent CD.
Full review here.
Some relatively constant features: Bowness voice is present on most tracks, not doing straight vocals but singing or chanting phrases which are then looped and layered to create extended textures, at the start of ‘Seven’ for example, or the middle of ‘Two’. These vary from syllables, words and even phrases, but like the rest of the disk they become part of the changing soundspace. There are also samples throughout, usually sounding like radio captures sometimes singly and sequenced as at the opening of ‘Two’ or superimposed to make a crowd in ‘Three’. Bass is obvious in a number of places and the whole is full of atmospheric textures and sounds.
The dominant feeling is of a constantly changing kaleidoscopic event: ‘One’ for example shifts between radio samples, atmospherics and voice loops, bloopy beat bubbling up, modulating the voice to tones, shimmering dark tones and dubby beat, becomes clattery and electric guitar, looped radio, bass and key melody, beat plus the voice, beat fractures and dolphins call, sqrly sound increasing and decreasing in pitch, beat and melody, mumbling voices, a beat that loses sync, strange voice manipulated, radio voices, beats and clicks and into a long end of bleeps, clicks and voices. Admittedly this is the longest track at 21 minutes, but the others are similarly active in their shorter spaces. And it is not as fractured as it reads, as components fuse into each other melding and blending to create a fascinating sound space. They shift between atmospherics and beaty periods which could be machines or looped clicks and snaps. Some of the shorter pieces are more focused - ‘Four’ is more minimal and darker with some beats but more drones, washes, bass and Bowness saying ‘round’, ‘Six’ is probably more beaty, there is a Fripp sample used in ‘Seven’ which again uses the voice a lot. There are also some very melodic periods, like the cello in ‘Three’ or the chantlike aspect that runs from ‘Two’ into ‘Three’. I don’t know if I am making this sound as fascinating as it is - the structure changes but never loses focus or direction and is constantly absorbing.
The evening's other curiosity was (by popular demand, apparently ;-)) a guitarless Michael Bearpark, choosing instead to operate drum machine, mini-disc player (with recordings of guitar, natch) and his immodest collection of effects pedals. A single piece of (I estimate) some forty minutes was created, the form of the sound being more sculptural than musical. By sculptural I mean that one of most important tenets of this kind of music is that it is the subtraction of elements that is at least as important as the addition of those same elements. The most deeply affecting part of such pieces for me is the few seconds after the end where mind suddenly has to fill up those spaces driven through it by the sound.
The piece transformed slowly over its duration, incorporating noise, mobile phone calls, synth patches, drum machine and other recorded elements including Michael's absent guitar. Although the sound was often dense and tense, the elements were never strident or incongruous and at times were, relatively speaking, quite mellifluous. Myself and the Goodly Wife were surprised to find ourselves much relaxed by the end. If you have only ever heard Darkroom through recordings then you have to experience them live. The greater space afforded the music means it seems to make much more *sense* and impact. (OK, the same could be said for any kind of music but I think it particularly applies here.)
A word about the visuals. This consisted of a really rather appealing CD-controlled oscilloscope and a gentleman who projected a series of Win98 screensavers onto the stage backdrop. This was rather better than it sounds and was oddly apposite. There were also two or three video cameras in evidence so some footage may well surface on the black market.
According to translate.google.com this translates into English as:
Born with the name of Collective idea of soundtrack for a documentary on the famous autopsy of the body of an alien, the project finally Darkroom comes to the second album, after the onset of Daylight which was in turn preceded by the single Carpetworld. According album released, we must say, somewhat unusual form, as has been made available for download on the site vitaminic.co.uk first and later on peoplesound.com, site also offers the option to purchase the product on CDR . Compared to the previous Daylight, Seethrough shows us Darkroom continue their research in various directions, coming in a couple of episodes (the title track and King Of The Cowboy Singers) to build real songs, albeit in a different than the No-Man. Bottleneck is a long track built primarily on a guitar phrase taste vaguely psychedelic, on which the voice of Bowness, dare to better according to his unmistakable style. On all Kaylenz certainly stands out, the longest piece of the disc, starting with a beautiful soundscape style almost Frippiano evolves into a left bolgia of layers that obsessive worrying and sang Bowness leads to the conclusion. Seethrough certainly is not an easy disc, in fact you fully appreciate after repeated and careful listening, needed to stay immersed in the wall of sound that the trio Bearpark / Bowness / Ostler is capable of producing. A pleasant confirmation.
Amazingly at the time of writing (January 2008) this article is still up in its original location here.
So I digress, but it is all a bit "Dirty Harry", and Darkroom can't be after anything resembling chart success. A film score, maybe? Like it hasn't been done before...
It looks a whole lot more austere than it actually is though, with the cover boasting an industrial complex, but it certainly is not Industrial on the inside.
All in all a refreshing change that I'll be coming back to a lot.
Look beyond this book's cover and you'll find a beatifully crafted selection of carefully layered tracks which are simultaneously bleak yet enchanting. My God, am I still talking about drum'n'bass?
Forget your squint-inducing drill beats and hi-hats that sound like the drugged up drummer's got a nervous twitch. This is different. And I like it!
This review can now be found on sonomu.net
No, this isn't suggesting that Darkroom are the sort of electronica trio who revel in futurism and excise humanity from their orderly sequenced, oscillating musical vision of the world. Quite the opposite - Darkroom's music (in which Os' sequences and textures are balanced by Mike's mutated post-industrial guitars and Tim's naked, swoony vocal wail) has humanity in spades. The live instrumentation unites with the programmed sound and beats in a way that's rare in over- purified electronic music. But in the music that emerges - one in which the technology provides uncertainty rather than comfortable form, where the threat of chaos and upset looms in the background - the main note sounded is one of loss. One of the main qualities of daylight, after all, is its impermanence.
We've already heard the discontented seethe of the 'Carpetworld' single: roof-skittering drum'n'bass with guttering snarls of wounded guitar and Tim's voice reined in to a hooded whisper of acidic lyrics - the only ones on the record, and they're about bad sex, looting and dodgy discos. We've also heard the beautiful flush of the title track: a tumbling chant - mournful but blissful - against a slow wallow of bass, the singing notes of Mike's Frippertronical guitar, and Os' dawn chorus of flickering sound. Darkroom can do in-yer-face, and they can do strokin'- yer-cheek. Which they do in roughly equal amounts; and often both together, in an elusive blur of ambiguous emotion. The sort that makes you keep one eye on them and the other, anxiously, on the door. But which keeps you held in place, unable to resist the desire to see for yourself what comes next.
And ambiguity is the keyword for this music. Brash, defined techno structures are missing, their place taken by sketchy outlines which the trio fill up with evolving, chaotic detail. The beats are light-footed: slow breaks languidly pacing the background, or pattering techno pulses like rats' paws. The electronics hum like supercharged fridges close to bursting flamewards, or keen out lovely auroral shivers in the sky and in the shadowed spaces. Tim's full-voiced mixture of blurred wordshapes and subverbal whoops are sometimes Buckley-ish in their tortured flamboyance, sometimes more like Liz Fraser's outraged brother. Melodies drift, loop and contort: massy and queasily mutable, like cloudscapes tortured out of their natural forms by the force of some cruel idiot god.
Sometimes it sounds like Underworld tumbled from their throne and reeling with the impact of a massive nervous breakdown. Or like Fripp and Eno sailing their boat into much more malevolent waters. 'Sprawl' growls its overcast way past complex shifting slapping beats, squelched bass, crushed radio-talk and vocal frailties, a baleful camera scanning a wasteland. The opener, 'Crashed', is strung out, lovely but disfocussed, with a streak of elegant suffering running through. The guitars rattle like motoring moon-buggies, the voice oppresses like a summer shower, and somewhere in the background, behind the throaty tick of percussion, a lone voice of optimism: a marimba chinking out its own little Reichian wavelet.
There are episodes of naked grace on board, beside the pollution, but 'Daylight' is still one of the most subtly distressed records to wriggle out of recent electronica. This is most obvious in the wrenching, frozen agony of 'Vladimir', but 'Died Inside' seems to sob in anticipation for a collapse waiting to happen but never quite arriving. Looped calls, lilting gasps are answered across a chill echoing gulf by the icy fuzz of a guarded guitar, prowling and snarling in its own isolation: once, Tim's voice reaches a rare intelligibility - a panicked, unanswered plea of " d'you feel the same?"
The wonder that comes close in hand with this fear is laid out explicitly in 'No History'. A soft hip-hop beat holds down the sky-stretchingly rapt vocal and the beautiful subterranean guitar moans: a soundtrack to that forever- flavoured moment as you lie stricken at the bottom of that fatal crevasse watching the final, most brilliant stars of your life pierce the beckoning void overhead. Like a fleeting memory of softer times, a snippet of 'Dock Of The Bay' slips in. The amplifier buzz at the end's a benediction.
If there's a time when there's resolution, it's when those two questioning background voices reach out across the comforting pulse of 'Estragon': Mike's guitar like a high, bowed bell, Tim toned down to a florid whisper. Still, as it sails on towards its hushed conclusion, the key feeling of 'Daylight' remains one of loss. A lament for something unknown, but something voiceable. Something past reaching again as the day goes down and fades off into the poisonous beauty of a industrial sunset haunted by old, unquiet ghosts.
Original article here
'Carpetworld' itself breaks all the rules - the rules that say you can't put vocals and lyrics recalling Soft Cell-era Marc Almond over churning, vicious Frippish guitar ambience and hard-as-nails mechanoid beats falling somewhere between jungle and hardcore techno. A knife in the side of the rave generation's blissout, it's elegant in its brutality ("Taking a twirl with your best friend's girl, while the rest of the gang torch Carpetworld"), hovering in tatty clubs and observing the rituals of nihilism unfold as the backwash of bad E and the not-so-gentle '90s poison the clubbers' dreams.
Dance darkhorse it might be (it doesn't run with any obvious scene, and fuck knows which playlist it'll fit on in the increasingly segregated world of dance radio) but this is still cutting-edge contemporary, with absolutely no fluffiness and Tim Bowness spitting out lyrics the likes of which we've never heard fall from his previously poetic mouth - "Have useless sex with your ugly ex... / You velvet-sneakered chancer, you broken-fist romancer..." - as the beats flutter like a death's head moth trapped in the throat. I'll stay well out of the disturbing urban nightmare Darkroom are living in, but I'll happily live it vicariously through their warped imaginings. Dante's disco inferno.
After that, the 'Carpetwarehouse' reworking does lacks a certain spontaneity. The original sounds like it's literally fallen together in a paranoid improv session after a thoroughly unpleasant experience: This - apart from simply not being different enough - simply sounds like Darkroom have tried too hard at the atmospherics. OK, the beats are even more frenetic and Bowness achieves something he's previously never managed in previous recordings: i.e., sounding fucking terrifying as his distorted voice rasps out the repeated mantra "I'm coming after you!" If you ever thought, from listening to No Man's work, that you could have that Bowness chap in a fight - think again... Nonetheless, one does yearn for a battering, bloody remix from the diseased mind of Jim 'Foetus' Thirlwell, or Aphex Twin.
But, hell, Darkroom's maverick genius still encompasses enough space for much more roaming, ambient trips. 'Daylight', in particular. Tim Bowness (like Martyn Bates) has always had one of those voices that are perfect to use as an instrument integral to a piece such as this, weaving magical wordless nothings in and around underwater tones and splashes of electronica. Anchoring this thoughtful pause from drifting off into inconsequentiality, a beautifully melodic bass riff and eerily clattering percussion - like the echoing sound of camera shutters - keep proceedings somewhere near planet Earth.
'Ardri', though (nonsensical title - always a bad sign), reeks too much of late '70s/early '80s ambient - the kind of stuff the BBC would choose to soundtrack beautiful nature footage. Look, it's a personal thing - until someone out there finds even a slightly new direction with ambient (and I would certainly not rule Darkroom out of this), then the only sounds that interest me are the ones that either completely chill me out, or those that make the hairs on the back of my neck rise. This final track (like too much else in the field) gets my mind wandering after the first minute and thinking "So? What's next?"
So, a downbeat end to a marvellous debut from Darkroom. Buy it for the title track and (whatever my gripes) for the remix, and just treat them as one long, haunting slab of sonic terrorism. Brilliant.
rated 4 stars = "excellent"
According to translate.google.com this translates into English as:
The music on Soundtracks can be found, for the vast majority also used for movies or documentaries. Some songs are written specifically for this release, but a familiar one hand patchy level or the other a rather monotonous character. The album exudes mainly a strong ambient atmosphere.
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