The Computer Grew a Heart
Darkstar, the British electronic music trio that gives us News From Nowhere, is a young group that has already achieved some critical acclaim. Their earlier single “Aidy’s Girl’s a Computer,” just barely skirted into Pitchfork’s top 100 songs of 2009. Now, almost four years after that breakthrough, they’ve finally released their second album. Does it live up to its predecessor?
Well, the group is moving somewhere south of the heavily computerized sound that got the critics’ attention in 2009, imbuing this release with a more naturalistic, often psychedelic approach to their music. News From Nowhere is a bit dirtier than the band’s past work. It’s more blended, more ambient and maybe a bit more colorful. The skittering percussion lines, jingling marimbas, and rolling synth lines are all here, often accompanied by heavily distorted vocals. Here, however, the sounds blur into one another in a way that’s more impressionist than futurist.
On “A Day’s Pay for a Day’s Work,” the group pairs somber piano and a down-tempo backing beat behind a veil of psychedelia to achieve an effect that is reminiscent of David Bowie in his Berlin years. The song’s chorus then breaks into a melody that smells exactly like Tears for Fears, giving it a bit of a modern new-wave feel. There’s more organic life growing in the music than we’ve seen in the past, which is interesting in a time when so many artists are moving in the opposite direction.
News From Nowhere was preceded by the single “Amplified Ease,” which exemplifies the band’s new sound very well. A catchy, programmed backing track is overlaid by a handful of looping vocal tracks that become the driving melodies in the song. After a few minutes, the song fades into a warm lake of ambient melodies that pulse and mesh with one another until the track’s end. A heavy emphasis on programmed beats and melodies still runs deep in this album, but it’s not as cold as it was before. The robotic, computerized sound that pervaded Darkstar’s music before this release has transformed into something that feels much more alive.
Darkstar’s second album is a solid effort, but not what fans might be expecting. A more lush and psychedelic sound dominates this record, making the band’s name increasingly less apt. News From Nowhere showcases a stylistic change that makes it more of a reinvention than a follow-up.