Saturday, March 26, 2016

All That Noise (1990)

The Darkside is not to be confused with a more recent act, DARKSIDE, which is more like electronica and operates out of New York. The band that made this album was a British act, or recording project more like, spun out of the Spacemen 3 complex. It's a bit murky who is involved and to what degrees—for the band generally, Wikipedia offers the names Pete Bain, Sterling Roswell, Nick Haydn, Craig Wagstaff, and Kevin Cowen. My copy of the CD shows a photo of three guys, unidentified. Much of the credit, for songwriting, personnel, production, and even design, simply goes to "The Darkside." If forced to categorize, I'm happiest with labels such as psychedelia, space-rock, or drone-rock, though it also bears some relation to shoegaze. And you might as well categorize it, because it is fairly derivative, with roots in '60s garage and/or various psychedelic high points and obscurities, filtered through infinitely slowing tempos and an ethos they inherited naturally of "taking drugs to make music to take drugs to." The various touchstones can be sensed in the titles: "Guitar Voodoo" (the long opener, which harks at once to both Jimi Hendrix and Shake Some Action), "She Don't Come," "Soul Deep," "Love in a Burning Universe," and of course the title song—which don't believe the hype, this is actually quite gentle music. The songs are primitive, real simple simon met a pie man, involving rudimentary hooks with electric guitar, bass, drumkit, occasional keyboard, and subtle studio witchery. The main point is the mood first, which is somber, quivering toward ecstasy, and then second all the power of the electric guitar inflecting it. The moods are deepened with thoughtfully blistering breaks and textures, stinging little solos, wah-wah notes, tender moues of feedback to affirm points. The singer is flat and restrained but gets the job done nonetheless, sounding slightly put out, which also suits the mood. Indeed, there's a muffled, breathless quality to the whole thing—it sounds as if it were recorded in a chamber from which half the oxygen had been pumped out. This is all by way of elucidating the likely reasons it flopped commercially and remains something of an obscurity. But as an owner since it was practically new (though no longer recalling the circumstances of acquiring it), I have to say it has amazingly enduring charms. The songwriting understands pop fundamentals just enough and the players never forget the power of the studio and electric guitar. Its sweet sounds fill a room so nicely for the 40 minutes it lasts that I often play it back to back.

1 comment:

  1. The mystery w/ this kind of stuff for me is the fine line betw salubrious fuzz and annoying muzak kitsch, a problem the Spacemen 3 solved by being both at once. And The Jesus and Mary Chain originated this trick, right?