Darkstar’s News From Nowhere is transient and fragile. Upon first listen, I could only hear it as monotonous, and I still do if the light doesn’t shine a certain way at a particular time of day. But that seems to be part of their point. The lugging, languorous build to the finish is definitely a statement, a nod towards the human condition, and the level of subtlety in News From Nowhere is stunning when studied or when the listener allows the album in full to wash over them. But without that push, without these conditions, the album doesn’t reach the point of sublimity as intended: as simple as News From Nowhere is in structure, the listener really has to engage to work with it and meet it on its terms, and those terms are found in Darkstar’s points of deconstruction.
The band’s debut North distorted both the lines of genre — dubstep, in particular — and the very notion of what a band and its constituents can be, and it received widespread acclaim. Thankfully, the deconstruction of individuals and their relationship to both the core of the band and the genres in which they employ seems to carry over, if not pushed further on News From Nowhere. At a time when indie is being either swallowed up by flirtations with electronic music (see: Centipede Hz and MGMT’s ideas for their next release), moving farther away from the “dance floor” and further into one’s own core is an important step: more zen-centering than Dionysian. Darkstar are essentially finishing the movement that they themselves helped start, which justifies the move from Hyperdub to Warp, a label known for its melding of man and machine, the physical and the technological.
News From Nowhere attempts to look past the trappings of electronic genres and devote themselves to a more spare genre source: ambient. Opening track “Light Body Clock Starter” immediately calls to mind Brian Eno’s experiments with Harold Budd or A Winged Victory For the Sullen, testing the grounds of the sustainability of tone both electronic and organic, the two meshing together and becoming indistinguishable. The voice is vocoded and shredded, making it more impressionistic, vaporous: getting to the core of a machine is Darkstar’s aim.
The impressions made are that the sublime, the relinquishing of the self can only come with work and time. “-” seems to come from a similar place as The King of Limbs’ latter tracks, which speaks to the notion of human fallibility and fragility, helping make News From Nowhere a decidedly beautiful album.