"When the sky turns dark, the world sounds a lot different." (De:Bug)
Dark Sky represent progression. The London duo have never settled for a specific sound nor dwelled in a single niche too long. What’s striking about all their releases is their passionate love for all kinds of electronic music not exclusively dance floor related. This is no different with Othona, the second album from Dark Sky on Monkeytown Records. Across nine tracks Matt Benyayer and Tom Edwards manage to reinvent themselves once more by merging contemporary techno, classic electronica and their roots in British bass music into a touching and thrilling whole.
With releases on Black Acre, 50WEAPONS, Tectonic and Mister Saturday Night, Dark Sky have numerously proved their versatility. There’s the vibrant deep house of In Brackets, the colourful 2step and breakbeat excursions on Black Rainbows and the vocal-laden melancholia of imagin. Othona picks up on the sound of their 2014 debut and tweaks it just in the right spots. Matt and Tom left vocals off altogether and let the intriguing melodies, shape-shifting rhythms and heavy bass do all the dramatic work. This album reveals them as an integral part of the Monkeytown family as well as innovators in their own right.
A large part of Othona is the result of Dark Sky’s touring experience. Years of putting together their live sets encouraged them to focus on hardware instruments and samplers, preferring a more hands-on approach to computer screens. The album is also heavily inspired by photos and field recordings they took of isolated structures within different landscapes. One particular location which caught their attention was Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex, which is based on an ancient Roman fort called "Othona". After visiting the site on numerous occasions they discovered a small self-sustaining community of people living right beside the structure, which had its roots in the aftermath of the Second World War. "Its early pioneers created a movement that sought to pursue reconciliation and understanding between people of different faiths, cultures and nationalities”, Matt and Tom explain. "This notion of harmony between individuals really inspired us".
The idea of harmony is not only rendered in the artwork by Harry Cresswell, which was based around the location, but can be heard throughout the album. Othona is always challenging and never takes the easy route, but its tracks constantly reveal the purest form of beauty. The title track opens the album and gently introduces its musical range with emotive pads, elaborate beat programming and subtle club signifiers, which steadily develops into the epic midtempo trance of ‘Domes’. The slightly nostalgic synth melodies and cute bleeps of ‘Badd’ bring to mind classic Aphex, which is never a bad thing, while ‘The Walker’ channels ubiquitous melancholy into a standout moment of euphoria. Dark Sky are never short of emotional elements, but they know very well where to put them. Just listen to closing track ‘Field Tower’, giving the kick drum its final overwhelming appearance – no doubt that this is going to be a highlight in their new live set.
The album is preceded by the single ‘Kilter’ / ‘Acacia’ on 17 March.
01 - Othona
02 - Domes
03 - Cyan
04 - Found & Lost
05 - Angels
06 - Badd
07 – JJJ
08 - The Walker
09 - Field Tower