Music Reviews

Artist: Dark Star Safari
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Arjunamusic Records
Newly-formed four-piece Dark Star Safari (comprised of individually well-established artists Samuel Rohrer, Jan Bang, Erik Honoré and Eivind Aarset) didn’t initially set out to write songs. Their initial direction was sparse instrumental improvisation around their relatively conventional musical set-up of guitar, synth, bass, drums and discreet live electronics. During the process, Bang felt the urge to sing vocals over some of the pieces, a move which the rest of the group took up and ran with, almost retrospectively grafting song lyrics onto their moody downtempo improvised post-rock.

Unfortunately, for my personal tastes, the addition of vocals comes across as a bad move. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the sparse, melancholic, low-effort, intimate-sounding vocals that come across as either a more gravelly Anthony And The Johnsons or a less cigarette-wretched Rob Dougan- but sadly there’s nothing much to inspire here vocally either. It’s all too languid and one-note. There are highlight moments- “Resilient Star” is one of the better ones, and the lighter mood of “Mordechai” is slightly David Sylvian-ish.

It’s a shame because some interesting improvised dark post-rock ends up taking a distinct back seat to these vocals. Some dark and sinister atmospherics end up getting sidelined and treated like wallpaper. The sheer sparseness of “Thoughts And Prayers” is captivating around the words, whilst “Child Of Folly” is reminiscent of some of the finest tracks from Resonance Association, who remain masters in this field to my ears. The warmer loops of final track “Fault Line” are also nicely detailed.

The vocals will appeal to some, I’m sure, but for me they’re an obstacle to enjoyment. Any chance of an instrumental version?...

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