High Five: Darkstar
It feels like something of an understatement to say that Darkstar has come a long way. Starting out in 2007 as a pair of London producers working in the nebulous post-dubstep realm and dropping lauded singles via premier bass outpost Hyperdub, the now-trio is set to follow up the sleepy pop inclinations heard on its debut LP, North, with a full-length album for Warp that often sounds unlike anything the band has done before. Called News from Nowhere, Darkstar's forthcoming 10-track LP—which you can stream in full before it's released on February 5, here—finds the band expanding its vision to include more ambient touches, live instrumentation, and elements of psychedelia, sounds which we wouldn't have exactly expected to hear coming from the three piece. It certainly made us curious to find out what music helped influence News from Nowhere, so we tapped Darkstar beatmaker James Young to contribute five such songs to our High Five series, and give us a bit of background as to how they came into play while the record was being created.
Eyvind Kana "10:10 (The Beloved One)"
Tim Goldsworthy sent this to me after we spoke to him regarding the prospect of producing our album. That fell through, but I'm glad he sent me this. We've recently spoken of vocal loops and structuring some of the songs [on News from Nowhere] in a kind of mantra style, and I suppose this lends itself to that train of thought. It's got some really bizarre backing vocals, too.
Jun Miyake "The Here and After"
This track I discovered while watching a film about Pina Bausch. The mood is solemn, but the voice is really sweet. The track uses space really well with an irregular phrasing of the vocals, and the music is multilayered and rich in texture from syncopated cross rhythms played by acoustic instruments; the main loop that plays throughout the track is a plucked double bass.
Yasuaki Shimizu "Music For Commercials"
Released by Crammed Discs in 1987, this album from a Japanese electronic composer is a selection of short cuts used for commercials. The tracks have titles like "Seiko" and "Honda." It still sounds very fresh, and I immediately thought of J Dilla when I heard it, the way it jumps from one idea to another with tracks as short as 43 seconds. The production is clunky and sounds like it's been chopped and sliced.
Robert Wyatt "Sea Song"
Produced by Pink Floyd's Nick Mason, "Sea Song" is the first track on Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom LP. I love the way this song is pretty yet quite dark and moves from a piano ballad to an epic Wyatt wailer with wobbly synth lines. The instrumentation is wonderful, especially the mellotron and how Wyatt uses his voice in less conventional ways toward the end.
Jürgen Müller "Sea Bed Meditation"
Darren Cunningham [a.k.a. Actress] recommended this to me when we played together in Madrid in 2011. I didn't get around to it until about 12 months later, when we began wrapping the album up. It helped me though the nights following the final recording sessions. Once the final sessions are over, it feels like a void you can't really fill, so you feel like a spare part. I consumed lots of new music in this period.