I first fell in love with Dark Sky just over five years ago - initially it was the track 'Leave' which tickled my fancy. Its sound was somewhere between liquid DnB and future garage, which just blew my mind. Following that, it was the tracks that were hyped for long periods (sometimes up to a year, and occasionally even longer) and most of which would come out on Monkeytown’s now defunct 50 Weapons sub label. There were some tracks that made sense in the odd Jamie XX mix like 'Totem', but others that were ridiculously dance floor ready like 'Shades'. A very original sound was evident in their work; I and many of my peers were completely enchanted. However, after fading away for a while, they returned with a strangely unoriginal debut LP in 2014.
Now after a further three years, they’re back with what I’d hoped would be a breath of fresh air, or at least a return to form, with a new record Othona. This time around I'd heard they would basically be leaving vocals alone, so my excitement levels were high.
About halfway through track one, the title track 'Othona', I began to believe that the old Dark Sky were back. The track boasts echoes of those aforementioned releases on (the aptly named) 50 Weapons. In a nutshell, the track is a vision of intelligent euphoria. Track two 'Domes' is a spaced-out soundscape with that familiar almost liquid drum and bass feel. It boasts an unmistakably chunky synth, and subtle percussion, including a lovely use of cymbals and hats. The track eventually drops into that full-blown, big room squelch we’ve come to associate with Floating Points.
'Cyan', the third track on the LP starts with drones and feedback, which drop into a rough and ready tribal stomp. Contrary to this arguably sinister beginning to the track is the eventual inclusion of warm sounding scales in a major key. The pivotal decision to include bleeps gives the track the feel of a soundtrack for a cityscape rather than a pensive wilderness. The following track 'Found and Lost' is beautiful, but simply sounds like they have worked out what Floating Points’ favourite preset is on his Yamaha. Luckily, it’s only a minute long, because the longer I listen to it, the more I become frustrated.
Track five is 'Angels'. The track is somewhat ethereal, which I guess is to be expected from the name. Having said this, the use of field recordings is wholly unoriginal and is simply reminiscent of a discarded track from Mount Kimbie’s debut Crooks & Lovers (meaning it’s not only unoriginal, but also sounds like it’s seven years old). It will undoubtedly appeal to the easy listener though. The sixth track is 'Badd'. This is a more archetypal electro track, an attempt at emulating the ilk of The Other People Place. I’d like to stop and point out that Dark Sky released an “influences” playlist for this album on Spotify, so some of these comparisons are hard to avoid because I gave that playlist a look. Anyway, although once again pleasant, this track too is vastly unoriginal. At one point the track touches on the kind of epic style that many EDM tracks are known for. I hasten to add that I don’t use the term “epic” positively whatsoever. The track eventually ends with a very out of place raw/lo-fi section.
A cinematic track that builds to a sinister drop, 'JJJ' is a reminder of the Dark Sky many others and I still yearn for. It boasts bells that sound like clanking chains. Having said that, it eventually builds to nothing and simply leaves you wanting, like a nail that's been hit, but bent slightly. Track eight is 'The Walker', and just like walking often can, this track drags on. Although boasting a generic nineties European techno thumping kick, I checked to see how long was left of the track after three minutes, as it was already the most monotonous. Techno is a genre that must walk a careful tightrope to avoid sounding repetitive, and sadly this track doesn’t. Flecks of EDM become evident again by the end also. The final track 'Field Tower' sounds marginally unfinished, as if they hope people won’t notice the simple major vs. minor scales they’ve boringly layered. Sadly, after nine tracks it becomes pretty fucking prominent.
I understand why they may want to slowly reinvent themselves from being a collective who simply make ripe and ready, dance floor friendly tracks. What I don’t understand though, is releasing these albums on the main label (Monkeytown), which is the mothership to the label all those original bangers were on (and yes, I did understand the concept of 50 Weapons before you ask).
By Joel Baker | Loose Lips
Released April 21, 2017