Video Review: Darkstar | Gold

Maybe it's the virtual circles we travel in, but it seems like the past month (possibly more) has produced an endless stream of buzz for the Hyperdub trio Darkstar. Thankfully, versus some of the praise that gets sung of less than deserving "break out" acts, Darkstar, and it's debut North which is out early next month, deserves a good deal of the accolades being thrown at it. For starters, last year's "Aidy's Girl is a Computer" proved that Hypderdub was about much more than dubstep—although many writing on Darkstar seem to feel a need to afix the genre to the group somehow, most recently describing the sound as "post-dubstep"—and the track landed itself in the coveted spot of being one of Gilles Peterson's "Worldwide Winners" of 2009. 

As you can probably tell, we're not really convinced of the associations made between Darkstar and dubstep (however much we're ultimately appreciating the record). The closest relative is "Aidy's Girl," or other early productions—like "Need You"— when the band was just the production duo of James Young and Aiden Whalley. The addition of vocalist James Buttery has clearly pushed them in new, less definable directions.  Listening to the LP, it feels unwilling to stick to any one framework as it glides from one track to the next on a bed of glitchy vocals, stuttering synths and rhythms that share as much with trip-hop, pitched down house and indie rock as they do with dubstep's syncopated shuffle. The newest single, "Gold," a cover of the Human League B-Side, there's really no comparing. Of the song, the band had this to say (excerpted from an interview with Hyperdub label boss Kode9):

"The Human League track was given to me by a friend. He used to play the dub at 33rpm instead of 45 so the break would be real slow and crunchy. He lent me the tune and I put the flip on at 33rpm too. The vocal line was how you hear it in the single, the original is much quicker and it's a pretty obscure one from the "Mirror Man" EP. The Human League are great. We paid more attention to them after making the track, throughout the album we listened to four or five albums regularly and Travelogue was one of them. I'm not sure if we were real fans, to be honest, I listen to some of it and think that it's brave but sometimes they get it so right. They've obviously got a strong vision to create a sound so uncompromising. Even though they were consistently in the charts, it's a very particular way of writing, mixing and arranging. I don't think I've heard anything like it before or since. I don't necessarily enjoy listening to it a lot of the time; it interests me though."

As meandering as that sound bite is, it says a great deal about the personality behind the melancholy confections that make up the band's debut. The crew is thinking about its influences, letting them sink in, but not too deeply. In a lot of ways the most apt comparison we can come up with is to the xx, another band that channels new wave, indie rock and electronica without being overwhelmingly any of those things.  Obviously not spitting images of each other, they do seem to share a low-key pop feel (dare we say chillwave? Ok, we won't go there). Regardless it demonstrates a permeability that will allow them to be something more accessible than most of dubstep will ever be, especially for American audiences. 


— Joshua P. Ferguson

Today they let go of their video for "Gold" and we want to share it with you so you can get a taste of things to come: 




Darkstar: Gold from Evan Boehm on Vimeo.


If you'd like to read more about how the video was made, check out this cool break down from Sembler, the company behind the animation etc:


Sembler | Project "Gold"


Darkstar's North is out on October 19. In the U.K. anyway...


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