“Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer,” a fever-dream track with a lithe, sinewy melody that streams through artful silences, electronic marimbas and a downtempo beat, was released on Kode9’s Hyperdub label last year to many accolades. But Darkstar, a then-duo of producer/writers James Young and Aiden Whalley, seemed like it had been relatively quiet since the single’s release. In reality, the London team was toiling away on a full-length and turning the duo into a trio by adding vocalist and friend James Buttery to its roster.
North, which is out on Hyperdub this month, is the result of that labor, and it’s Darkstar’s first full-length effort. An element of melancholy permeates the record from the ominous piano lament “Ostkreuz” through Buttery’s urgently fluttered vocals on the title track. Shadowy track “Gold” is, in fact, a cover of an obscure-but-poppy Human League B-side, tweaked to fit Darkstar’s slowed-down aesthetic. “My friend was playing it at 33 RPM instead of 45 and it just sounded better slower,” Young explains via telephone from South London. “So we just covered a slow version rather than the real version.”
And while Darkstar more closely shares moods with the black-clad postpunkers of ’80s Britain than its current club-crushing peers like Zomby, the Hyperdub connection has brought considerable attention to its innovative work. “I think there’s, like, an actual curiosity for people to look into Hyperdub and dubstep, generally,” says Young. “Obviously our stuff isn’t dubstep, but it leans to that style sometimes.”