Hyponik

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Song-By-Song: Dark Sky – ‘imagin’

Carlo Anderson, Matthew Benyayer, and Thomas Edwards have been making and releasing music together as Dark Sky for over five years now. Following the string of experimental twelve inches they’ve issued on the likes of Black Acre, 50 Weapons & Mister Saturday Night, they’ve  taken a different tack with each and every record. Their sound is as evolutionary as their creative minds and hence it was the logical next step for them to tackle the long play format.

Their tenth official release & album debut ‘imagin’ has finally landed on Modeselektor’s own Monkeytown Records today. Featuring collaborations with vocalists Grey Reverend, Cornelia and the one and only d-Bridge the album is an interesting and adventurous step to the side of the dance floor, although that distinctive UK essence that’s been so omnipresent in their bass-centric, atmospheric sound prevails.

To celebrate the occasion, we caught up with them for a song-by-song walkthrough of the album, a better understanding of their methodology and an insight into the workings of the collective Dark Sky psyche…

Darksky

1. Imagin
This was actually one of the last tracks to come together and started off as a beat-less track. We wanted to break down the idea of a melody into its simplest form and to try and create a sense of rhythm without using drums. The track is basically made up of two lead sounds which continually counter each other. The idea came about when messing around with a software step sequencer hooked up to a Tetra but we couldn’t get the result we were going for so ended up programming each note instead. Once the midi pattern was decided we recorded a couple of takes and then put down some drums. Tom was actually listening to an early demo of the track on his ipod and heard the sounds of cyclists going past which fitted really nicely so we decided to take some field recordings of bikes and incorporate them into the track.

2. Silent Fall
This track was completely re-written 3 times. We’ve lost count how many different versions there are. The initial idea behind the first versions were to try and make something quite prog-rocky and live sounding using real drums and psych’d out synths but that vibe didn’t really work out so we ended up toning it down a bit. After finishing an early version of the track we felt it was missing something so we decided to start searching for a vocalist. We sent an early version of the track to Grey Reverend after hearing his voice on the Bonobo album. We really loved his voice and thought his tone would really suit the track. Unfortunately we never actually got to meet him during the recording process as he was based in New York so everything was done through emails.

3. Voyages
This track was built around the lead line in the intro which came from the Tetra. We wanted to make a track that didn’t make sense on paper but when put together everything would kind of work out. Digging for a sci-fi show that we did on NTS around 2 years ago definitely had an influence on this track. The Brazilian breaks influence probably came from listening to Gilles Peterson too much whilst growing up. The bass line was actually recorded at half speed in the first place using a minibrute, once we’d recorded the audio we began experimenting with doubling the speed of it on Ableton using the warp function… that was a little happy accident.

4. Lucid
We really wanted to have at least one completely atmospheric track on the album and this track was actually made using all the elements from Vivid but reverse engineered to try and make a prologue, which is something else we really wanted to include on the album. Once we’d finished Vivid we exported all the stems and then sliced them up to create new instruments. We then played the parts by hand using an MPC controller and then proceeded to drench everything in reverb to cover up our shoddy playing.

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5. Vivid
The beginnings of this track came from a phrase recorded using an old Juno keyboard with stock piano sounds. You can actually hear the whole phrase in the 2nd breakdown where the strings come in. Once we had the audio from the piano phrase we experimented with chopping it into little slices to form the intro and then tried to create an off-kilter groove by moving bits around manually until we found a loop that worked. The vocals on the track are from Cornelia and came together quite a while after the track was finished. We first heard her singing on Portico Quartet’s ‘Steepless’ and fell in love with her voice. We then sent her a message on Soundcloud with a batch of tracks, initially Vivid wasn’t in the pack it was just Purple Clouds, Nothing Changes and a load of other tracks which didn’t make the cut. We recorded the vocals at Iguana Studios in Brixton using our good friend Nigel Glasgow to engineer the session. The lyrics are based loosely around the life of a ‘vivid star’

6. Nothing Changes
This track probably changed the most dramatically from the initial conception to the final version thats on the album.
It started off as a really dark, beatless DnB track that was lead by the pads but when we got Cornelia to sing over the top it started to take on a completely different feel and dynamic that lead to us re-working it into a more percussive 120bpm roller, although the outro is still a little bit of a nod to the original concept.

7. Odyssey
This track has also seen loads of different versions. We’ve been sitting on it for around 2-3 years and I think we’ve played it in at least every set over that period so we’ve definitely had time to road test it on lots of different sound systems. The feedback we got when playing the track out was really positive but after scrutinizing the track for so long we began to wonder if we’d fully maximized the potential of the track sonically so we decided to have a go at mixing the track down in another studio using a mix engineer friend of ours by the name of Milan. We thought the track sounded pretty good before in a club but the next time we played it out we were all like woah. After hearing what a good mix-down could do we decided to get the whole album mixed down by Milan. It took around 3 weeks but we decided to sit in on every session to try and soak up as much information about the process as possible so the time spent there was very useful to us in that respect.

8. Rainkist
This track was completely overhauled twice. The first version of this track was probably around 3 years old but was completely different to what it is now. We actually decided to re-work the track completely around a month before the album was due to be submitted for mastering… A pretty stressful mistake that we’ll try not to make again. We were just messing around with the Tetra one day and came up with this weird new lead sound that just seemed to contrast really nicely with the vocals. Speaking of vocals they were actually supplied and written by the one and only d-Bridge. Early on in the album writing process we spent a lot of time brainstorming about who we’d love to work with and who we thought would best suit the music we were making. We were all massive fans of Darren’s ‘Wonder Where’ track so when he agreed to have a go at putting something down on Rainkist we were all over the moon.

9. Manuka
The oldest track out of the pack at around 4 years… We recorded this weird synth line and thought nothing of it. We dug it out a couple years later a decided we had to finish it because it was like nothing we’d heard before. Probably the most flamboyant track on the album and it has a ‘write a synth line ask questions later’ vibe going on about it. I’d have to say the Neptunes sound was a pretty big influence on this track and across all the Dark Sky material. We also decided to change the title from Von Jaffa to Manuka… not really sure why now.

10. Purple Clouds
Bizarrely this track started out with a 4×4 kick drum running throughout…Most likely inspired by Pepe Bradock’s ‘Deep Burnt’ which we’re all massive fans of. After sitting on the track for a while we thought it could have a lot more impact if we had a go at muting the drums. We were also thinking a lot about how the arrangement would translate into a live scenario, we always thought this track would either work great as a opener or closer. After we’d muted the 4×4 kicks the track started to take on a new lease of life but it then started to feel very empty all of the sudden. Luckily Cornelia was on hand to smash it out of the park on the vocal front. The lyrics were written by Cornelia and were inspired by an article citing a group of Egyptian musicians who came together to make music during the curfews imposed by the dictator Mubarak back in summer 2013.

‘imagin’ is available to buy on vinyl & digital from today. You can order it here.