News From Nowhere
I like this album. I want to just say that right off (so I have). Because I wasn’t really enthused about listening to it in the first instance; strains of the previous Darkstar (a different band – sonically, a different idea) began playing in my head – and bugging me – before I even played this new album.
It wasn’t even that North was bad so much as just not for me.
But here there’s been a dream-pop makeover; never too lush, mind. There’s pastoral English folk charm and woozy layers of Flaming Lips-meets-Matthew Dear. I kept thinking that if Richard D. James ever dropped the Aphex-skitter and decided to make a pop album it might – with collaborators – come out this way. There are Aphex hallmarks like a piano-not-quite-in- tune-and-made-to-sound-gorgeous-as-a-result (A Day’s Pay For A Day’s Work) and though this album features elements that would appeal to Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear and Ruby Suns fans it also sews up the (obvious) link back to Robert Wyatt and John Martyn and Kevin Ayers and post-Syd/pre-Dark Side Floyd. Sometimes you can hear all of that in just the one tune (Armonica).
This album has an ambient-wash to it that is so much more of a comfort than the part-prog/part-folk/part-agitated-dance music that sniffs at this type of sound but can’t (quite) deliver.
And on Young Hearts it’s like James Blake but with the grit he misses; imagine if Eno and John Martyn played nice and got it on (so good) in a musical sense to make musical sense.