Dark Horses: Black Music – album review

Dark Horses - Black Music (Last Gang)
CD (Europe excl France) / DL
Available now

DARK Horses, BLACK Music… the clue’s in the title. It’s dark like its come out of a swamp, or broadcast in the middle of the night somewhere remote, whispered over crackling airwaves: “Radio, radio,” coming up for air.

Little is known about Black Horses, other than they are stationed in Brighton. They rarely give a straight answer in interviews, and remain as close to the shadows as possible. How a band who are supporting Kasabian, Sigur Ros and Beck can remain so mysterious is anyone’s guess, but that mystery is a big part of the intrigue.

Psychedelic rock is making a comeback in 2012, but although Dark Horses’ debut, Black Music, has touches of psychedelia – particularly on recent single ‘Radio’ and ‘Traps’ – it is far too stark to fit into that genre.

The band deconstruct rock ‘n’ roll and put it through a Kraftwerk/Portishead filter. Drums and the bass come to the forefront while the guitars are largely replaced by marauding synths. It makes for the sound of a twisted future, with many tracks – ‘Boxing Day’, ‘Alone’ – starting with just one or two instruments and voice and building to towering walls of sound, thick with layers of reverb and echo. The vocals are deadpanned for the most part by singer Lisa Elle, who almost speaks certain verses in a washed out, computeristic tone.

Dark Horses have a distinctly pagan image and at live show shows and in their videos, the crowd are bombarded with cult-like images, only serving to add to the mystery, but making for an intensive, electrifying experience. The video and performance aspects seem to be an integral part of the group.

While there are many tiny reference points on ‘Black Music’, certain influences and sounds you can pick out, they only ever flash by, so you get the impression rather than a full evocation, a very clever technique. Postmodern, but you have trouble putting your finger on exactly how.

The only place the album seems to stray is on its two covers – Tomas Andersson Wij’s ‘Saningem Om Dig’ and a low-key take on Talking Heads’ ‘Road to Nowhere’ – which seem to take the focus off where the band are headed and seem somewhat extraneous to the whole.

Dark horses are another band like The xx or Alt-J who seem to have come from nowhere with a fully formed, polished sound, a startling presence and well crafted debut. It’s about time you got on their Black Beauty for a ride.

You can find out more about the band on their website, Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

All words by Andy Tillett. You can read more from Andy on LTW here.

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