Dark Horses – Black Music
Record Label: Last Gang Records
Release Date: April 2nd 2013
Being a reviewer has its perks sometimes. Every so often, I’ll have the chance to review a record by a band I never otherwise would’ve heard of. That’s where UK outside Dark Horses come in. I received a copy of new record Black Music in the mail to review, but thanks to work, my relationship, and other things, I haven’t had a chance to properly sit down and listen to this record. That is, until now. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I pressed play, but I was very surprised with what I found. To say the least, I’d compare this band to fellow UK bands the xx, and The Joy Formidable. Those two bands are female-fronted indie bands and all three are quite similar. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, because I enjoy both of those bands a lot. In fact, The Joy Formidable released a record entitled Wolf’s Law just a couple months ago that I enjoyed quite a bit. The xx and The Joy Formidable are rather “obscure” bands, but by that, I mean they’re not really your average indie bands. They don’t limit themselves to any sort of formula, and the same can be said for Dark Horses. Black Music is a very interesting album, because it has a lot of twists and turns to it. Well, it’s about 55 minutes, so that makes a lot of sense, in all honesty. While I was rather put off by the fact that it’s 55 minutes, I still went into with an open mind, and like I said, there were a lot of twists and turns to it. It’s a very dark, and moody album, to say the least. That’s how I’d describe the bands I compared them to, actually; The Joy Formidable aren’t really those things, but they are a band that doesn’t adhere to any formula, really. One of my favorite things about their last album, Wolf’s Law, was that there was a lot to take from it. It attempted to do some different things, even if those things were hit or miss. The same really goes for this record, but it’s a bit darker, and moodier, to say the least. I’m not a huge fan of really long albums, so this record being about an hour is pushing it, but it’s not bad, either. This record is not awful, and in fact, it’s very enjoyable, and really cool. It’s a bit different, but not from what I normally listen to. With that being said, let’s press play, and listen to some black music, shall we?
The record begins with “Rose,” which shares the name of the Doctor Who character Rose Tyler, who is slated to make a return appearance in this year’s 50th anniversary of the TV show, but this band/song is not Doctor Who-related. The song starts off as really quiet and ambient, and finally, vocalist Lisa Elle appears about 40 seconds in. Her vocals are rather distorted and quiet, just like the music accompanying it, but this is where my comparisons to the xx started, because this definitely sounds like something that band would put out. A little while later, the music picks up, and the song itself picks up. For being an opening track, this one is a doozy. It’s not terrible, and in fact, it’s really cool. It’s weird, but in a good way. It’s nothing I’ve heard before, and I enjoy it. “Rose” is a rather slow, chilled out, spacious, and ambient track. That goes for the whole record, really. That can be a good thing or bad thing, and possibly even both. It’s good, because this is a cool sound that I haven’t heard much of, but the record is almost an hour long, which can be a bit steep, especially since most of the 14 songs on the record sound quite similar to one another. It’s hard to tell the tracks apart in some cases. Second track “Radio” follows in this formula, but it’s a bit more upbeat. The music is still moody, and rather strange overall, and that’s really how I’d describe the whole record as I said before. There are a lot of great moments on the record, and “Radio” is definitely one of those tracks. In all honesty, the first few tracks are highlights. “Rose,” “Radio,” and third track “Alone” make for a nice triad of tracks.
While I did say a lot of the record is quite similar, there are some moments on it that do manage to do something different, including third track “Alone,” as I mentioned as being a very enjoyable track, it’s also another upbeat track, and has a very electronic/dance groove to it. Another interesting moment occurs with sixth track “Chain Chant.” It’s literally a twelve second song of chanting. It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard, but it leads into seventh track “Traps.” This track is another interesting one, to say the least. It starts off very ambient and strange, but eventually, it picks up around the 30-second mark. Next track “Count Me In” is also another enjoyable track, but it’s very quiet, and relaxed in the very beginning. Kind of how every other song starts, honestly. This one is different, though; it’s not strange, but just slower, and beautiful. Elle’s vocals are the forefront for the first minute and a half until a soft drum beat takes over for a little while. This is easily one of my favorite tracks on the record. Around the two-minute mark, the track picks up much more, and the full band comes into play. Here’s where the song becomes a bit more ambient and spacious. It leads into next track, and title track, “Black Music,” which is a minute and a half of really cool electronics, and just when it’s about to “climax,” it leads into the next track “Sanningen om Dig,” which is yet another slow and relaxed track. As I said earlier in the review, it’s a really cool sound in the beginning of the record, but the whole entire is like this, but what does make this song stand out is that it’s in a different language, which is pretty cool, to be honest.
As for the rest of the record, I don’t have too many favorites, because every song does sound exactly the same, or pretty darn close. Eleventh track “Road to Nowhere” is one of my favorites, because it kind of has a similar sound to “Alone,” which is more upbeat, and actually memorable, compared to the rest of the record. It’s a rather breezy track, but it still is more upbeat, nonetheless. After a couple of other tracks, the closing track “The Archer” is rather interesting, because it’s only a bit over two minutes, so it serves as the outro of the record, and it works in a nice fashion. It’s another slow song with really weird (but cool) instrumentation, and it ends, basically. This is the only through and through instrumental song on the record, so just for that, it has a memorable quality about it. The record itself is really interesting, but it’s way too long for my tastes. Not because I didn’t have the patience to listen to it, but because that 55 minutes of the same sound throughout is a bit boring. If it was 40 – 45 minutes, this record may have been more enjoyable, but it seemed like it dragged on a lot at times, so the lasting value on this record is a bit lower than normal for me, even if the sound is really cool, I had a harder time getting into this album. But for what it is, it’s still really awesome, and worth a listen. If it wasn’t for AP.net, I never would’ve heard of this band, so I can at least take that from this record.