Pitchfork Music Festival 2011, Sunday: Darkstar
I'm encouraged to find that people embrace the divergent sounds thrown under the banner of dubstep. And Darkstar is pretty divergent: Like their name implies, they could do right under the cover of darkness (versus the opening slot on Pitchfork's Blue Stage today). But for their debut stateside gig, it's still nice to have them. Melancholy and hazy, their brand of bass music isn't what most expect from a so-called dubstep act. It works for James Blake, but here?
As far as I'm concerned, yes, but I have a thing for moody, broody "dance" music. On "When It's Gone," the gorgeous, closing moment of the trio's debut record North, there's very little that resembles actual dubstep. It was only the second or third song in their set, but by then, most people in the audience realized they weren't getting a blazing beat feast a la Bassnectar or anything. In fact, from its labels Hyperdub and now Warp, to its members, I don't imagine they throw the term around much to describe the music.
Still, the referential nature of so many Pitchfork acts isn't lost here. Even though Darkstark is probably the closest thing to future music across all three days, the throwback, new-wave brooding runs strong through these dudes. Understandably so: Hailing from the north of England, this trio is steeped in mining dust and Human League.
Speaking of, on "Gold," the trio's cover of Human League, a distant house thump permeates, rolling alongside hi-hats and anchored by slow piano. This is the energy the crowd needs. People start wading in closer, whistling and fully embracing the music.
Clicks continue to buzz in rapid succession, and the distorted and crunchy synth found in so much of Hyperdub's output sits prominently in the mix. The lead singer looks like Brendan Fraser in Airheads, but this shouldn't make you take Darkstar any less seriously. Their February signing to Warp is big news for these Brits, a trio we'll hear more of in the future. I only hope next time they include "Aidy's Computer Is A Girl," the song that introduced me to them, conspicuously missing from today's set.