Dark Horses Black Music Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A debut of limited success from the Brighton newcomers.

Lou Thomas 2012

Brighton-based outfit Dark Horses’ debut long-player, Black Music, doesn’t contain too many recognisable hooks. It’s not a bad album, and makes for a suitable soundtrack to purging angry, hateful thoughts. But those seeking anything other than gloom might be better advised listening elsewhere.

The darkness descends early on, producer Richard Fearless’ stamp clearly discernible from the opening drone and thud of Roses. It could easily be a lost track from Death in Vegas’ The Contino Sessions, arguably Fearless’ best work.

Radio is an easier listen and the first moment where Swedish singer Lisa Elle excels. Her mellifluous tones are a pleasing counterpoint to a corrupted Motown backing – it’s as if Saint Etienne suddenly developed an interest in feedback and smashing windows.

To round off the opening trio of songs, album standout Alone is all about metronomic movement and sits halfway between The Kills and Gossip. Fans of dirty and funky krautrock will lap it up.

After this promising start, there are sporadic moments of interest from Dark Horses, but there’s little to get excited about. So much attention seems to have been focused on the album’s downbeat atmosphere that the tunes can occasionally feel secondary. No Dice, for example, is vaguely Lynch-ian, while Traps is reminiscent of Mazzy Star or perhaps 2:54 without their cutting edge.

Conversely, and perhaps oxymoronically, a cover of Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere is rather refreshing. Elle’s voice sounds better unadorned by static or reverb, instead accompanied by a touch of harp and bluesy guitar.

Anna Minor is the last full tune of this debut – it sounds like Howling Bells taking on a contemplative mid-period R.E.M. tune. It features some unexpected but somehow appropriate harmonica and stays faithful to the album’s solemnity.

Then, some 80 seconds from the end of proceedings, there’s a small Tom Waits-style freak-out. But it’s too late to make much difference on an album of strictly limited success.

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