At times deeply mesmeric and perpetually evocative, Centuries the debut album from Dark Dark Horse is a release which wraps an emotive and imagination arm around senses and thoughts from start to finish. It is an entrancing and enticing collection of songs which maybe do not light burning fires in the passions but certainly stokes them into strong satisfaction.
Dark Dark Horse is the collaboration between producer Jamie Ward (Maybeshewill/ex Kyte) and vocalist James Stafford (kids in cars), two musicians from Leicestershire, UK combining their individual creativity and invention into something evocative and aurally descriptive. Initial songs from the pair found strong responses from fans and media whilst moving to the live arena the pair enlisted Joe Norledge and Robin Southby (Maybeshewill) to the band which soon found itself supporting the likes of Mono, The Twilight Sad, Clock Opera and Fossil Collective. Approached by Japanese label Rallye (Toro Y Moi, Au Revoir Simone, The Joy Formidable), the band released debut full length Centuries in Japan in 2010, but now via Function Records it has a UK release to trigger another enthused wave of deserved attention for band and release.
Opener Sharks instantly seduces the ear with electronic teases and the wonderfully expressive and riveting vocals of Stafford. It is tantalising introduction which explores the senses as the song permeates the now shimmering air above its magnetic temptation and rhythmic intrigue. As with all the songs its gait is dreamy, slow yet bursting with an enthused breath and evocative inducements which colour thoughts and imagination. The warm ambience cultured and caressing the listener from within the song adds to the sirenesque mystique of the track, something the album as a whole creates to inspire and spark emotions and reflections which one suspects will be individual to each immersing within its call.
The following Ethics and In A Lifetime Before bring their individual melodic and plaintive designs to caress the ear, the first with rhythmic enterprise within a swarming wind of suggestive melodic palette of vibrant sonic paint and the second through its almost music box like simplicity and elegance coaxed into brighter flames by the continuing to impress vocals of Stafford, whilst keys and electro scatter their own magnetic bait. Neither lives up to the heights of the first song but both leave the listener enveloped in their own thoughts and reflection driven aural summer.
Through the likes of the sparkling Spit out Regret, the bewitching and sonically hazy Southwest of Orion, and the enchanting Midnight Mass, a song which carries winds of melodic beauty expelling mini sonic crescendos of elegance, the album raises further pinnacles to admire and greedily feast upon whilst Mercury Nevada offers an expansive journey for thoughts and emotions through an atmospheric, slightly melancholic but tension free evocative and sultry tapestry. Arguably overlong but completely enthralling, the track evolves before the ear into a new and equally compelling musical narrative halfway through to leave its criticism of its length nothing more than being picky.
Every one of the ten songs on Centuries leave an impressive if not always lingering mark but there is never a moment when you wish to move swiftly on to another track, each a delightful and distinct trait of the overall character of the album, the closing title track the final piece of the sonic jigsaw and rounding off with skilfully sculpted melodic grandeur a release which sways and weaves a fresh and fascinating musical conversation and intimacy with mind and heart.
Though it did not send passions raging or flames coursing through the veins, Centuries is a release destined to find its worthy place in the soundtracks of many lives whilst Dark Dark Horse is a project destined to even greater triumphs and recognition.
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