Saturday, 4 February 2012

Elemental - Demdike Stare

The dynamic duo of Dark are back having dug deeper into their record collections to create a lavish vinyl package which in turn will become as collectable as some albums in their private collections, no doubt. But only at the lower end, because they spend a lot on one album, up to 3 or 400 pounds, probably, which means they're either making a comfortable living from this music game, or in debt, or doing proper jobs as plumbers when they're not raiding their records for samples. Crate-diggers with the habit will always find a way. Junkies take to robbing houses, but I don't think Sean & Miles have gone down that route. Then again, how would we know if they've never been caught? Miles in the dock: 'I needed a rare Umberto Smaila album, m'lud'.

So what does a vinyl junkie do with all those records? One answer since hip-hop has been to nick bits of them to make your own record. So you get future music makers collecting what's been sampled, then sampling again once they've set off on the hunt for what previous artists have sampled (I hope you're learning a lot here). Will anyone ever sample a Demdike Stare record? It's quite possible. The idea of sampling an already sampled source is very appealing. DS distort their samples, of course, otherwise they'd be no more interesting than the army of straight samplers who stick beats to their snippets of sound.

In one interview Miles (or Sean, I don't recall which, and they are no more distinguishable to me than Ant & Dec) said they would always be moving on, evolving. Well, there's little evidence of that on 'Elemental' since it's the same brand of Dark we've heard before, more or less, but in my book that's fine. After all, it's hard to imagine where they can go other than towards the light, and in doing that they'd risk losing the followers they've gained over the last couple of years. There is, after all, a thirst for Dark, and in Witch House magazine DS score very highly. Except that their music bears no resemblance to House, and I've just created an awful pun. Forgive me.

DS have moved away from the relative light of early recordings, where a bouncy beat and obvious nod to Dub would crop up, choosing instead to creep down a spiral staircase into the bowels of the sonic basement. They've acquired a cult following of eastern European neo-Goths who boil the blood of goats, mix it with vinegar and crushed broken glass, and smear it on their faces, then call up the devil. Of that I'm convinced. Dark music serves a useful purpose for all ages. For teenagers it mirrors their angst over sex, ugly spots and parents who don't understand, whilst for middle-aged men it represents their psycho-turmoil over parenthood, house prices and pensions...and whether they should spend all that money on Demdike Stare vinyl packages. Of this I'm also convinced.

Everything you want from a DS record is here; the droning, scraping, thumping ritualistic drums signifying the imminent sacrifice of more savings at the altar of crate-digging etc. 'Dauerlinie' is particularly effective, built from a bowed cello in contrast to high end bleeps backed by a muted beat - that's from Miles tugging at Sean's sleeve saying 'Let me bring that beat back, please, c'mon'!' 'cause he used to make mutant techno, as you probably know. The doom chords, dirge rhythms and trademark skittering percussion of 'Violetta' work brilliantly, as does the beat brought in halfway through 'Kommunion', which sounds in part as if it's made from two snooker balls colliding, although it's probably a sample of someone's neck being snapped in an obscure Italian horror movie.

So, yes, it's a new Demdike Stare album, and it does not disappoint. How much further they can travel along these dark passages remains to be seen. Meanwhile, there's no light at the end of the tunnel, and fans wouldn't have it any other way.

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