SOTNMS on WeHeartMusic

It used to be that you could walk into a music store and ask to listen to music, or to otherwise preview an album or a single before buying it. This fell out of favor in recent years for a variety of reasons, none of them good that I recall. So when Vu asked me to check out Darkroom, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they, including a number of other artists, were using podcasts as a way to give listeners a preview of their music. It's a bit like walking into that old record/music store and putting the headphones on to listen to something. In fact, the biography on their website states that they use podcasts much more than they do traditional releases, which features a motley mixture of recordings of live performances, rehearsals, and studio tracks.

Darkroom is an ambient/electronica group comprised of Michael Bearpark (guitar) and Andrew "Os" Ostler (keyboards and loops). They describe their sound as a cross between freeform jazz and Fripp/Eno-style ambient looping. The brief for Some of These Numbers Mean Something (sometimes abbreviated SOFTMS), released last October 10th, describes the album as "guitar under a microscope." The press release defines it further as a combination 70s space rock, 80s Sheffield electronica, 60s guitar instrumentals and 90s post rock. The 70s and 60s descriptions seemed quite apt for the opening track, "The Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes", which sounded quite psychedelic and dream-like. Continuing on, the release states:

Mixing classic synthesizer & guitar tones with contemporary post-production, this album combines improvisation with carefully crafted and layered arrangement, and rewards repeated listening.

Seems to be a fair statement. The guitar licks throughout the album have a very old-school, organic feel to them, although the electronica tones sound more contemporary much of the time. Either way, it does remind me slightly of music when "classic" rockers played synthesizers with much less shame and Brian Eno was still ahead of his time. Moreover, Improvizone, which describes itself as "recurring live music evening of electronic/ambient/chillout beats and soundscapes by people with amplified instruments and bits and pieces of technology", in which Darkroom performs from place to place, goes further. "If the first thing that surprised me was how composed the music is on this album, the second was what Os did with the drums," wrote Andrew Booker (who has also performed with them) on the Improvizone site. It definitely sounds like the two really strive to keep their recordings as close to their live performances without the need for heavy editing.

When not working with Darkroom, Os runs a site called Expert Sleepers, where he makes music software for Mac OS and Windows, some of which was used for SOFTMS.

You can pick up Some of These Numbers Mean Something through or itunes

- Jaklumen

Full review here