Live Music + Gig Reviews

Darkstar + Gwilym Gold @ ICA, London

4 November 2015



The release of A Paradise earlier in the year found Gwilym Gold attempting to find a satisfactory midpoint between his conceptual endeavours and the more accessible work of his previous band The Golden Silvers. Sadly, the album proved to be somewhat of a misstep, rarely providing anything to truly grab the attention.

Tonight is a little different. Sat centre stage in a virtually blacked out room and illuminated by a single spot light, Gold’s songs suddenly start to unfurl in ways that his album didn’t suggest possible. His high-register vocals and are filled with yearning, calling to mind the likes of Antony or Thom Yorke at times. Indeed, many of his bass lines and cadences are indebted to Kid A era Radiohead although the overall feel is one of introspection that can’t be attributed to Yorke et al. Heavens Above is perhaps the most effective song in his set tonight, sounding like a love song sung in a chapel of rest, which, is as good a place as any to sing something truly heartfelt. It’s not all sadness and mournful tones though, at the midpoint he whips through a D’Angelo cover and suddenly turns into a classically tinged Stevie Wonder or Prince.

Darkstar, like Gwilym Gold, don’t always translate particularly well when recorded. Or at least they can be a little ephemeral, giving little to hold on to, and sometimes making little sense. Two blokes (‎James Young and Aiden Whalley) stood motionless over a stack of digital and analogue equipment in front of an apparently ceaseless strobe light also makes very little sense in terms of a visual spectacle, but with addition of volume and most importantly a thunderous bottom end, their songs suddenly come into focus. The duo’s ability to fuse dance, glitch and what might be termed as indie has developed over the years and recent album Foam Island is perhaps their most complete representation of their aims.

There are moments tonight when things are perhaps still a little too hazy, and the audience appear subdued, perhaps turned inwards by songs that at times seem to be a little directionless. There are of course times where it all comes together perfectly. Quandry sounds like an energised version of Carl Orff’s Gassenhauer and is more an explosion in a bottle factory than a rave up in a gallery. Pin Secure’s undeniable funk and vocal hook cuts through the haze laid down early in the set, and just when it appeared that this set would mainly be enjoyed by using Darkstar as a soundtrack to whatever thoughts are drifting through the transoms of the audiences minds, Stoke The Fire makes an appearance and causes an outbreak of understated, but nonetheless real, dancing. It’s the kind of thing that strobes are built for.

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More on Darkstar
Darkstar – Civic Jams
Darkstar – Foam Island
Darkstar + Gwilym Gold @ ICA, London
Darkstar – News From Nowhere