Album reviews

Fallout 4 on Brainwashed

Bearpark and Ostler were (and maybe still are) quite a formidable improv team on a good night, so I am pleased that some recordings of the nights when they absolutely slayed will now delight some fresh ears. When they are at their best, Darkroom have hive mind-level chemistry and damn near singular talents for slow-building majesty, nuance, and lightness of touch. Beyond that, this is some of the best contemporary space music that I've encountered …

- Anthony D'Amico
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Fallout 4 on Inactuelles

Something to open our nights to infinite energy. A magnificent inspired record.

- Inactuelles
Translated from the French by Google
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Fallout 4 on Groove

And Fallout 4 (Expert Sleepers, August 28), the third current release on Ostler's label, by his duo Darkroom, which has been active since the early '90s and includes guitarist Michael Bearpark, is no less sonically refined and generous. With a slant towards herb, prog and cosmic music, which is typical for the project. So humming analog synthesizers, gentle motor skills and the ubiquitous sound of an E-Bow.

- Groove
Translated from the German by Google
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Fallout 4 in ARTNOIR - Musik Magazin

The fascination is there immediately when a photo of Carl Glover adorns the cover. The artist is known for his recordings of futuristic looking buildings and constructions, mostly used to accompany progressive or electronic music. In Darkroom 's «Fallout 4» , this underscores the underlying music, which moves from slow and deliberate to driving and stirring. Three long tracks, conceived and recorded by Michael Bearpark and Andrew Ostler - guitars and modular synthesizers as the fourth part of a trilogy.

The dark mood makes the music on "Fallout 4" attractive, you listen with pricked ears how patterns and beats unfold over a long period of time. At 15 minutes, "Tuesdays Ghost" is the shortest piece on the record and knows how to shine with surfaces and textures at the end. In the middle excursion «Qaanaaq (Parts 1 & 2)» there are darkroom guitars and drum sounds from the laptop, circling and spurring each other on. You are definitely ready for this, as "It's Clear From The Air" elegantly introduces all the elements at the beginning.

Sometimes you weigh yourself in relaxed security, then again the sounds of Darkroom are rousing. For almost an hour on this album you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a closed and very well thought-out world of sound that seems improvised and fixed at the same time. The pieces seem to stretch out forever without losing sight of the goal. If radioactive fallout were so enjoyable, we would only build nuclear power plants and let them disintegrate.

- ARTNOIR - Musik Magazin
Translated from the German by Google
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The Last Sense to Fade in Waveform Magazine

This UK-based duo of guitarist Michael Bearpark and electronics-whiz and horn player Andrew Ostler [who also runs Expert Sleepers] has released several albums since forming in the late 90s and their current release is an epic one, consisting of over 90 minutes of wonderful reflective electro-acoustic ambience that’s warm and full of movement, with additional guitar provided by Jon Durant and Bill Walker. Some of the music was recorded remotely, but everything sounds together and well thought-out. The band also re-purposed previous live recordings as the basis for new music and added additional instrumentation and new themes. While some of the pieces feel mournful, nothing feels hopeless which makes this release especially appropriate for our time.

- Tom Ojendyk, Waveform Magazine
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Home Diaries 029 on The Progressive Aspect

I’d never heard of the whitelabrecs label until their Home Diaries series this year, and it’s a series well worth checking out (though it will take you some time to work through all the albums which comprise it). I can’t claim to enjoy every release in the Home Diaries series, but there are some which are particularly outstanding. One such was Pie Are Squared’s contribution (number 013 in the series), and this, by UK duo Darkroom, is another. In a way, this album seems almost the antithesis of Pie Are Squared’s release. Where 013 gave a feeling of comfort and security, 029 screams discomfort and insecurity. My 11 year old walked into the room while I was listening to opening number, Arrokoth, and asked if I was listening to the soundtrack to a horror film. And she’s right, because that track especially would definitely provide a perfect horror soundtrack, as it can be particularly unsettling. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the sound effects towards the end of this piece haven’t made my jump on at least a couple of occasions.

The second part of the album, The Uncut Stones of Night, is less creepy and scary, but still full of chills. Darkroom have a wonderful way of keeping a listener on edge and in suspense – which is no doubt useful when creating long form pieces such as these. Then again, at around only 40 minutes, Home Diaries 029 is dwarfed by the almost three and a half release that Darkroom released last year! One thing I absolutely adore about Darkroom is the use of clarinets (contra bass and bass on last year’s The Noise Is Unrest, and bass clarinet on Home Diaries 029). I love hearing the bass clarinet in music, but I’ve never heard it quite like this before. And it works. It really, really works!

Nick Hudson, The Progressive Aspect
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TNIU on The Progressive Aspect

Timeless in construction and execution, the music presented here is not constrained by time or place, it just is. The finest ambient music never sounds dated, and The Noise Is Unrest will surely fall into that category. Only time will tell, that is, if it doesn’t run out first.

Roger Trenwith, The Progressive Aspect
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Edition 1

As to Darkroom, truth be told our favourite of the quartet, ‘holding on to the sun’ is one of those special moments you’d have expected to ghost flight into the spectral stillness of the night time airwaves of Radio 3’s ‘Mixing It’ broadcast and in to the bargain causing a fevered debate as to its merits by hosts Sandall and Russell.

Review for Edition 1 (compilation by Champion Version Editions) - full article here.

WSTSSD on Something For The Weekend

no man guitarist Michael Bearpark and reeds player and computer wizard Andrew Ostler, together form Darkroom, a collision of atmospheric ambience and industrial noise, creating evolving and intense soundscapes using Michael's guitar and Andrew's flute and all the sonic manipulation software and synthesiser trickery one could wish for. Their previous album contained 11 tracks coming in at four hours long, but I'll be kind to you with this one - a mere two tracks totalling just under 50 minutes of deeply thoughtful and occasionally coruscating sound. And it's a "Name Your Price", too!

Something For The Weekend 107
Original article

TRIN on Rockerilla

Da Aprile ad Ottobre dello scorso anno, gli amanti londinesi dell'espressione ambient legata all'improvvisazione potevano contare in un appuntamento itinerante che si chiamava “Tuesday Post: Live Progressive Ambient” ( Una notevole line up al seguito tra cui i mai dimenticati Minni Pops e l'inossidabile Mixmaster Morris, oltre ad una nutrita serie di artisti famosi per le loro peculiarietà sonore. Tra questi i Darkroom, duo formato da Michael Bearpark chitarrista dei No-Man e Andrew Ostle, esperto nell'arte dell'integrazione tra scienza del computer e strumentazione analogica. The Rest Is Noise registra 4 ore dei loro svariati Tuesday Post live-set che possiamo gustarci a pieno downlodandoli free dalla loro pagina Bandcamp. Sono undici lunghi episodi nei quali si racconta di suoni adulti, in cui l'esperienza ambient assume contorni legati all'improvvisazione nell'uso di stumenti come chitarra elettrica, basso, pedaliere, clarinetto filtrati attraverso l'uso di synth e laptop. Un lavoro prezioso che mantiene in primo piano la presenza analogica esaltandola attraverso le infinite possibilità offerte dall'elettronica. Sul piano delle emozioni il risultato è decisamente lisergico, ipnotico. Il lato progressive riaffiora in più parti, riletto con un'attualità che lo rende innovativo, visceralmente vivo, quasi un supporto indispensabile per la rivisitazione di un genere musicale che trova nella ricerca la sua ragione d'essere. INNOVATIVE CLASSIC AMBIENT.

via Mirco Salvadori


Burning Shed always struck me as a funny name for a record label but the 2014 CD from the band known as Darkroom is no laughing matter. Over the past several years, Burning Shed has become synonymous with cutting edge prog by carrying a number of albums associated with King Crimson and other well known prog rockers. One such album, the Darkroom CD Gravity’s Dirty Work is a work filled with spellbinding soundscapes that superbly spotlights the guitar of Michael Bearpark and the keyboards / electronics of Andrew Ostler. Very Crimson-esque in places, Gravity’s Dirty Work features eight extended pieces of instrumental magic that crosses borders between New Age atmospherics and avant gard suspense—although unlike much New Age, this Darkroom CD is not meant to relax to. Commenting on the wide ranging comparisons made of their music, Michael Bearpark explains, 'We’re not aiming for a specific market. I don’t have a big problem with the term New Age specifically... there’s as much Suzanne Ciani as there is Delia Derbyshire in our music—also ambient, Krautrock, progressive rock, discredited for some time, and much else. People hear what they want in our music... We did set out to make an ambient album, but that was just a starting point—what’s left is something reflective, but quite different.' Darkroom have a number of releases to their credit and their best yet, Gravity’s Dirty Work is a splendid introduction to their sound. Plus, the Gravity’s Dirty Work CD cover art is excellent for those who still care about the packaging of art and music. Gravity’s Dirty Work is very ambient and spacy, and Darkroom manages to bring their sound into the 21st century with unique and successful results. Adventurous New Age music fans with a bent for near psychedelic Hendrix / Fripp like guitar-scapes and other sonic wizardry must give Darkroom a listen. Gravity’s Dirty Work is well worth the time for fans of prog-rock and ambient instrumental guitar-scapes.

Robert Silverstein
Original review and an interview with the band here

Rhombus (Film Soundtrack) on Sonic Curiosity

This CD from 2013 features 49 minutes of evocative electronic music.

The first track combines an assortment of haunting woodwinds with a pulsating electronic oscillation that continues to echo throughout the piece. Ambient guitar tones flesh things out with their seesaw resonance.

In the next piece, the guitar pursues a plucky sound in tandem with some backwards noises to achieve a sort of melodic discord.

Track three utilizes a variety of buzzing sounds with hints of burbling fluids to evoke a moody of nocturnal omens.

The fourth tune seethes with eerie guitar tones swimming in an ethereal pool of churning ominous electronics. Gradually, the guitar sneaks in some twangy chords to punctuate the dark pastiche with a twinkling presence.

Track five introduces some harsh electronics to the gaseous fog of textural guitar, resulting in an edgy temperament enhanced by buzzing pulsations. The composition eventually slips into a more sedate (yet still agitated) state, becoming almost dreamy (although in a tense sort of way).

The next piece continues in this discordant manner with a selection of radio samples interspliced with growling oscillations and bursts of hoarse static. Slowly, an electronic bath seeps in to temper the harshness, generating a cloudy sense of portentous implications.

The last track sees a reprise of the first song's meshing of woodwinds and guitar tones, this time flavored with an undercurrent of flowing soft electronics.

This release offers a progression of gentle ambience leading to grinding discord, establishing a sense of dreamy sedation followed by a pinnacle of rousing agitation.

Matt Howarth
Original review here

GDW on Sonic Curiosity

This release from 2013 features 60 minutes of moody atmospheric music.

Darkroom, a British electronics duo, is: Michael Bearpark (on electric guitars, pedals, loops, feedback, and bass), and Andrew Ostler (on synthesizers, keyboards, and programming). They are joined on certain tracks by: Rekoob Werdna (on cymbals), Simon Taylor (on trumpet), Simon H, Fell (on double bass), and Andrew Booker (on percussion).

Gentle electronics and atmospheric guitar tones deliver a rewarding dose of ambient tuneage.

While electronics are employed, the key instrument in this music is guitar. Predominantly, the guitar plays a gentle role with tonal sustains that establish dreamy vistas of smooth definition. These textural threads undulate softly, creating atmospheric passages of shimmering beauty that serve as a suitable foundation for the equally ethereal electronics.

At times, the guitar rises to achieve more than a tonal presence. Strummed chords stretch the harmonic structure into crystalline melodic territory. These more traditional guitar contributions lend a lilting humanity to the tunes with their often twangy resonance.

As mentioned, the electronics are secondary, functioning in support of the tonal guitar with their vaporous definition. On occasion, the electronics rise to a subtle blooping character that boosts the vitality of some of the tunes.

A degree of percussion is present, but generally relegated to the background, serving to generate fragile rhythms which contribute more as hints of tempos than as any propelling force.

These compositions are designed to establish passive soundtracks for the listener, tuneage rich with a dreaminess. They instill a infectious calm more than inspiring any introspection, though. While the overall temperament of these tunes is distinctly gentle, at times the instruments evoke a certain yearning that tends to exemplify an undercurrent of intensity locked beneath the surface.

Matt Howarth
Original review here

GDW on Frog Pest

sonorous melancholic landscapes. Perfect for watching the apocalypse...

or slow motion mega machine mishaps from your deckchair nursing a cold brew. Highly recommended

Review by Frog Pest - originals here and here

GDW in Electronic Musician

The UK-based duo of Michael Bearpark (guitars) and Andrew Ostler (synths) expertly ride the line between luscious, old-school progressive rock and modern ambient electronics. At times reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream, with hints of Fripp and Eno, Darkroom creates clouds of sequenced synths, chewy grooves, and looped phrases to support a variety of acoustic and electric guitar melodies that twist and turn in surprising, occasionally aggressive, ways. Moody and well-orchestrated, this release takes you places.

Laura Pallanck

Electronic Musician magazine, March 2014 issue

GDW on Innerviews

GDW in Prog

Drawing from experience with No-Man, Henry Fool, Bass Communion and numerous improvisational live projects over the last 17 odd years, Darkroom are a safe, stylish pair of hands in the avant-electronica department. And in case that doesn’t sound cerebral enough, guitar/pedal/loop/bass man Michael Bearpark has even squeezed in a chemistry research fellowship at Imperial College. But abandon any fears of inaccessibility - Gravity’s Dirty Work is fabulously pensive and experimental, but invitingly so. Strung With Black Nylon opens on a clean, crisp and creepy note, paving the way for minimal but potent guitar surges, propelled by electronics that judder and swerve you into a mysterious, ambient trance. There’s something strangely stimulating about being deeply relaxed and slightly unnerved at the same time. The cool, spooky tones of Baby Armageddon and Memorianova conjure a ‘haunted lighthouse’ feel. And for all the wires involved this retains an organic heart - with ominously pulsating, percussive baselines and upbeat samples providing a kind of tribal electronica beat. It all makes for a totally transportive and progressive mind clearer of an album.

Prog magazine, January 2014 issue

GDW in Prog Rock Stuff

Here's something a bit different. Second album by duo darkroom. Released on Burning Shed's own label, this is a collaboration between textural guitarist Michael Bearpark and synthesist Andrew Ostler. For info, Bearpark also plays for no-man and Henry Fool. This, their second outing for the label is particularly fine. Lots of atmospheric guitar playing, layered on top of beats and ambient swells of synth. They cover a lot of ground over the lengthy 8 tracks. They know how to set a mood and play on it to get maximum effect. I am reminded of Michael Brooks work, especially the albums he recorded for 4AD. But just listen to the final track, A Pair A Part. The addition of trumpet and double bass gives an instant jazzy overtone here, making for a particularly arresting piece. This is an excellent album. A bit different, but well worth investigating. Great artwork by Carl Glover too!

Prog Dog

Original article

GDW in irregularcrates

This week we received the forthcoming double album by Darkroom, ‘Gravity’s Dirty Work’ and it has been on heavy rotation ever since. It is duo Michael Bearpark and Andrew Ostler’s first album as Darkroom since 2008 and is available on CD or double 12″ vinyl. It is rooted in early nineties electronica experiments with the stunning cover artwork suggesting a space-based concept.

Whilst this is certainly apt and provides a reference point as you listen, the album manages to side-step cheesy done-to-death space music, with barely a hint of a NASA broadcast in sight. Instead, this set of eight mid-length tracks is a sophisticated collection of processed sound art which has a live and improvised feel throughout.
The influences are wide, with elements of Dub, Jazz, Techno, Post Rock and Ambient all discernible but none in particular standing out. This makes for a truly strong album experience that will have you mesmerised.

Harry Towell

Original article

SOTNMS in Postcards From The Yellow Room

It should come as no surprise that the music on Darkroom’s 8th album (released in 2008), has a decidedly cinematic quality. After all the band - Michael Bearpark on guitars and synth player Andrew Ostler - originally formed in 1990s to provide the live soundtrack to a film screening.

Consequently the album is deeply impressionistic in its textures and pacing, taking time to unwind and unfold. Whilst there’s a certain amount of abstract, glitchy corrosiveness scored across the album, Darkroom supply music that whilst being relatively static, is nevertheless richly warm and melodic.

The title track has an endearing brittle poppiness that recalls the amiable sunniness of some vintage kraut rock excursions, and the stately Mercury Shuffle recreates the slow blissful waves of guitar that could almost be outtakes from John Martyn’s sepulchral epic, Small Hours.

Bearpark will be known to some listeners as member of the live No-Man group and as such you’d expect from that kind of standard there’s a wonderful poise and attention to detail. Dreamy, aquatic-sounding Fender Rhodes, pulsating vaguely dub-like atmospherics, and sublimely stirring strings conjure up what might happen if Paul Schutze made an album with Michael Brook.

This is a varied and approachable set that caters for moments of introspective contemplation (lots of glissando-type guitar forlornly fading off into space) and more expressive moods and moments. It’s worth mentioning the drumming of Andrew Booker (also in the live No-Man band) whose whip-cracking snare work and fizzing cymbals on the groovesome Two Is Ambient (and elsewhere) brings both definition and a welcome velocity to the overall shape of things.

Sid Smith

Original article

SOTNMS in Sound On Sound (September 2009)

Darkroom include in their numbers Andrew Ostler, the man behind the rather interesting Expert Sleepers range of plug-ins. Together with a drummer and one of those noodly I-am-not-a-rock-guitarist guitarists, he makes dreamy, minimalist electronica that could fairly be described as ‘ambient’. (At one point, it took me at least 30 seconds to realise that what I thought was an interesting textural noise was actually a colleague rustling a plastic bag.)

The pace is slow, then, but there’s plenty to admire along the way. ‘My Sunsets Are All One-Sided’ develops cleverly, gentle beginnings gradually being overcome by tides of bit-crushed percussion; ‘Chalk Is Organised Dust’ blends hypnotic acoustic phrases with free-jazz drumming and string-like electric guitar pads. There’s enough dissonance and darkness to balance out the sweetness on display, and even the longest tracks never appear directionless.

Sam Inglis

Original article

SOTNMS on EvilSponge

One of three bands with this name (including "The sexiest band in NYC" according to a source as reputable as!), the Darkroom that is the subject of this review is a duo from the UK. The band consists of Michael Bearpark and Andrew "Os" Ostler. I honestly cannot decide who has the better name here –- on the one hand, "Os" is an efficient moniker, but "Bearpark" just sounds really cool. Let's call it a draw…

Anyway, Bearpark plays guitar with a lot of effects, and Os does electronics. That is pretty much it, making Darkroom similar to any number of bands going these days (i.e., Worriedaboutsatan, Voyager 1, Sealions, etc.). That is, effects and electronics seems to be the current trend in mellow, ambientish bands.

Except that Darkroom are not following the trend. You see, Some of These Numbers Mean Something is their eighth album in ten years. Not only are they among the forebears of this style, they are actually rather productive as well.

And it seems odd to me that i have never heard of them before. I mean, this music is right up my alley, and yet this is my introduction to the band. Huh. That just goes to show that there is lots of interesting things out there. More than you can ever know, i guess.

Darkroom start off Some of These Numbers Mean Something with the simmering The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Electronics burble and the guitar whines under an eBow, building slowly. The title track is next, which chiming guitars and more intensive rhythms than the previous tune. My Sunsets Are All One Sided breaks things up a bit. It starts with a long minimalist interlude, chiming sparse guitar and a faint synth echo, but grows slowly into a dense, throbbing tune.

I could go on and describe the remaining 5 tunes, but i think you get the point. This is instrumental music with a hint of the ambient to it, and some occasional echo-y dub moments. Darkroom give us about 47 minutes worth on this disc, and if you like this kind of stuff then i think you will enjoy Some of These Numbers Mean Something.

That said, i don't think that Darkroom are really doing anything all that unique here. That is – there is nothing going on here that i don't have on several other CDs. Darkroom are not (with this release at least) breaking new ground, but it is an engaging listen nonetheless. They have a firm grasp of dynamics, and their music flows with the collaborative ease that a pair that has lasted for 10 years naturally comes to. And there are some brilliant moments strewn about – the heavily echoed end to Chalk Is Organized Dust really sticks in my mind.

So my recommendation is – if you like spacey rock, give Darkroom a listen.

Full review here.

SOTNMS on Side-Line

Darkroom is a three-piece band from England consisting of Michael Bearpark, Andrew Ostler and Andrew Booker. “Some Of These Numbers Mean Something” is their eighth album and marks the 10th anniversary of the project. Intriguingly described by the label as ‘ambient stadium rock’, musically they combine electronic ambience with floating space rock guitar to produce gentle and sometimes cinematic instrumental music. The addition of crisp drums, deep bass guitar and sweeping synth textures brings a sense of immediacy to proceedings. Darkroom have a slightly unusual mix of traditional instrumentation – especially guitars and drums – with gentle electronics which fuses the extravagance of 70’s prog rock guitar workouts with the modern aspects of electronic music production. Opening promisingly with the ghostly screeches, insistent beat and atmospheric space rock guitar textures of “The Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokers”, “My Sunsets Are All One-Sided” is another highlight, starting with bright yet gentle sparkling ambience and building over almost seven minutes to become a dubby and somewhat abstract collision of improvised drumming and meandering guitar sounds. “No Candy No Can Do” is decidedly tropical while “Chalk Is Organised Dust” is gently acoustic and introspective. The album also occasionally resembles the stadium guitar heroics of U2 (cf. “Insecure Digital”) or the signature guitar sound of The Cure (the title track) and sometimes uses Spanish guitar with sparse electronics. Utilizing quite a range of guitar styles this album covers acoustic, prog rock, space rock and drone augmented by drums and electronics to give it added presence.

Full review here.

SOTNMS on the AMG All Music Guide

Darkroom's 2008 album shows that the group's penchant for downbeat instrumental atmospherics has, if anything, increased in power with time. Certainly the layers of feedback and drone over the chilly, uneasy pulse of "The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes" sets what might on first blush seem to be the tone of the entire album, though unsurprisingly the duo have far more approaches at hand than simply melancholic contemplation. On a calmer but no less crushing note, the slow burn descending cascades of "Mercury Shuffle" feel like just that, an amble over an empty, still planet. Yet there are certainly moments of serene calm in contrast, often breathtakingly so. Hearing the lovely repeating tones and soft percussion of the title track calls to mind many comparison points, from Eno and Fripp to Michael Brook and beyond, but Darkroom give it their own entrancing spin, especially on the break. Meanwhile, "Two Is Ambient" feels more like an 'O'Rang number in the drums while a serene guitar requiem on the demi-melody, at once inviting and a little unsettling, adding further to the album's involved charm.

Ned Raggett

SOTNMS on Doctor of Prog Rock's 2008 list

Fantastic atmospheric instrumental music with the wonderful Michael Bearpark.

- Barrie Sillars

From here.

SOTNMS on Progressive Ears

I would probably consider myself fairly knowledgeable music fan but every once in a while I find out about an artist that really makes me stop and think, “Why wasn’t I informed of this?” Darkroom is one such musical entity. The British duo of Michael Bearpark and Andrew Ostler have been creating music since the early 1990s and have released six albums since their debut entitled Daylight came out in 1998. Their sounds are formed in a brilliant ambient/post rock style that is both somber and exhilarating simultaneously.

Being a modern outfit, they could naturally be classified alongside others like Boards Of Canada, Chroma Key and Tortoise, but they also have a deep influence from older artists such as Fripp & Eno, Ash Ra, Cluster and the like. An association with Tim Bowness of No-man and being on the Burning Shed label ought to get them the attention of the Porcupine Tree crowd. But regardless of all that, they should be noticed because they are damn good.

After doing a little research and checking out some samples, the music on some of these numbers mean something is a tad bit heavier than the other material they have out primarily due to the participation of guest drummer Andrew Booker. Andrew has also played in No-man as well as the Harmony In Diversity project that featured Peter Banks. He also hosts a live music series called Improvizone that the members of Darkroom play a large part in.

Michael Bearpark’s guitar work on this album is very impressive. The info for this album on their web site describes it as “guitar under a microscope” and I would have to agree with that even though it might not make perfect sense. There are some subtle and very beautiful guitar parts on this album that remind me of folks like Michael Brook, Robert Fripp and Manuel Gottsching. There’s also a slight country twang at times that brings to mind Chill Out from KLF or maybe I’m thinking about Godspeed You Black Emperor.

About the only criticism I could give this release is that the some of the song titles are a bit goofy. Names like “Two Is Ambient”, “Chalk Is Organised Dust” and “No Candy No Can Do” are just plain silly…they need to stop that. But if that’s the only thing bad I can say about the disc, this must be a pretty great album. I do really like the picture of the Concorde on the cover. Really lends an air of retro nostalgia to the design.

So why didn’t anybody tell me about Darkroom? This is something that I would have definitely been grateful to find out about. When none of my friends or family lets me in on these things I have to get this information off the streets. While I might need to apologize for all the namedropping in this review, I would honestly suggest that if you are into any of those names, you should definitely check this out.

- ffroyd

Full review here

SOTNMS on Vital Weekly #651

Micheal Bearpark (electric guitars, pedals, loops, feedback, acoustic guitar, bass) just returned from touring with No-man (a side project of Bass Communion and Porcupine Tree) is together with Andrew Ostler (synthesizers, programming) and Andrew Booker on drum Darkroom, a project in which the guitar plays the all dominant role. Burning Shed calls this 'ambient stadium rock', which I though was very funny, but once I played the album, I thought it was also an appropriate term. Crazy as it may sound. Darkroom seem to combine all things guitar from all decades of popular music. Shoegazing, cosmic music, The Shadows, and post rock. Just to name a few. The guitar swells and swells, held together by crazy electronics and pounding drums. I can picture them in a stadium and 'The Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes', the start of the CD, could be a great opening tune for the show. A 4/4 rhythm and lots of sustaining guitar sounds. Lengthy krauty exercusions in music, that sound by all means 'retro'. Music to be played loud, which seems also a bit odd for an ambient production, but this can have it. Its all a bit much this one, no matter how much I like it, its simply a bit too much. Perhaps in that stadium I would think otherwise, but here at home I thought half of this would have been great. Think F/i or Vocokesh on a more ambient trip.

- FdW

Full review here

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

SOTNMS on The Silent Ballet

Michael Bearpark and Andrew “Os” Ostler have been creating music together since 1992. They started using the Darkroom moniker in 1996 when they performed a live improvised soundtrack for the Nevers Film Festival in France. Lately the duo has released much of their music, both live and studio recordings, via podcast. This is definitely one of the more interesting ideas I’ve seen in the expanding trend of artists releasing music over the internet for free. To be honest, I’m surprised podcasts haven’t been embraced more widely across the instrumental scene. It seems like a relatively easy way for bands to give fans sneak peeks of new songs, quick studio updates or even audio tour diaries.

On Some of These Numbers Mean Something, Darkroom create beat-driven ambient soundscapes made up of Mike’s loop-based guitar playing and Os’ keyboards and synths. The beats are mostly of the electronic variety, but on several tracks fellow Improvizone contributor Andrew Booker lends a hand with live drums. The problem with the live drums is not with the quality of drumming, but the way they mesh with the rest of the music. The sprawling ambience Darkroom creates is much better suited to electronic beats and bits of real drums cut up and run through effects than actual drums. On “Mercury Shuffle” for example, the drums sound like they were recorded to a click track without ever hearing the actual song. At the opposite end of the spectrum is “No Candy No Can Do”. The intricate beat is spread widely across the speakers and chirps like a march of little mechanical bugs.

The six-minute title track is the highlight of the record. It opens with a simple riff on electric guitar with a great sounding delay. Subtle harmonic bits are added into the loop and seem to weave together to form a guitar tapestry. As the beat drops and the song gains momentum, one guitar riff after another steals the spotlight, each with varying tones and effects. “Chalk Is Organised Dust” lives up to its great name and features some relaxing acoustic guitar and a really nice string sample. The beat for this track is one made up of both electronics and live drums and for the most part manages to work pretty well. “Insecure Digital” is an example of the types of ambient soundscapes these two are capable of creating without a beat to guide them. Ambient improvised noodling is clearly Darkroom’s strong suit, and I would have liked to see more than just this excellent two minute track on the album.

At more than a few points during the album I felt that the songs could have used a bit more structure. It’s difficult to hold this against the two, because they mainly play in an improvisational setting and that atmosphere could have been what they were after on this release. The nine tracks on this disc are a bit hit and miss, even within themselves, but there are enough satisfying moments spread throughout to keep me on the lookout for Darkroom’s next effort.

- Brenton Dwyer

Full review here.

SOTNMS reviewed by Andrew Booker

This month sees the release of the eighth Darkroom album, Some Of These Numbers Mean Something, available from Burning Shed. Darkroom are ambient keyboardist and looping soundscaper Os and experimental guitarist Michael Bearpark. Seldom an Improvizone gig goes by these days without benefiting from the involvement of Os or Mike, usually both. Reciprocally, their latest album features some guest drummer they dragged out of his house without difficulty one evening last Spring.

Although I play on several tracks on SOTNMS, I feel impartial enough to be able to write about it, having had very little to do with making this music beyond turning up to my regular practice session in a rehearsal room in Tottenham Hale on Wednesday 16 April 2008 and flapping a couple of sticks up and down for a few hours. Hardly hard work for me.

Plenty of hard work has gone into this album though. The first thing that strikes me when I listen is the complexity of this work, relative to what you would expect from a group known for its ambient output. This is an album that Os has painstakingly put together out of Mike's guitar parts and his keyboard textures, and it's an approach that works really well. You get the Bearpark spontaneity and ingenuity that we're used to hearing live, and you get to hear what Os is capable of when he doesn't have to do live looping during a gig. There are organised chord and mood changes, and pieces with solid forms and arrangements.

For example, opener The Valley Of Ten Thousand Smokes has the initial signs of a techno track, but its programmed beat is a framework for a series of sinister/melancholy Bearpark phrases, sweeping in at different registers. As much rock action as ambience.

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. I thought he wanted material for looping. In other words, during the session, I was trying to play reasonably well, but wasn't bothering about getting a good take. I'd never heard the material, and assumed Os would just chop and loop the good bits of what was usually a single take. I didn't realise he was going to use large sections of unedited playing. Perhaps neither did he. Mercury Shuffle, the most straight-ahead track on the album, is a case in point. The feel is late summer evening looking west over a Dagenham factory as the sun sets. By the sound of it, Os used the drums pretty much as I played them. Towards the end I start messing up, and take the entire track down with me.

My Sunsets Are All One-Sided begins with a 50s electronica Raymond Scott feel with something that sounds like a steel drum in reverse. Then some rolling taps echo in the background, and it takes on an new shape and the excitement mounts, pauses a couple of times, then swoops back in with pounding piano, offbeat post-rock distorted drums and looped guitar swells. It's pretty thrilling.

More futuristic electronica arrives in the form of No Candy No Can Do, a piece full of character and one of my favourites, with a sublime jazzy lilt and lounge guitar sounding like it was played in an enormous 23nd century shopping mall. Terrific, and contrasted nicely by the next piece, Two Is Ambient. This one has a thrillingly sinister and menacing downbeat groove, acoustic guitar adding to the tension and unease. Dirty drums drag in and out, it goes gently mad towards the end, slowly taking itself to pieces around the meandering beat.

In the brilliantly titled Chalk Is Organised Dust, sci-fi sweeps and burbles give way to a wiry string section and a slightly wonky assembly-line shuffling drum loop. Like watching an amateur production of Fritz Lang's Metropolis played out in telephone exchange in the 1940s, from your vantage point on a grassy knoll. Following the bitter-sweet pastorale of Insecure Digital which finishes all too soon, the album closes with an acoustic flourish introducing Turtles All The Way Down, which quickly descends into some demonic Bearpark distortion. By the time the drums kick in, it's gripping, the tense pulsing and chugging guitar constantly suggesting it's going to break into something else. It doesn't. In the end, again the drums fall apart and take the rest of the track with them.

Overall, the album is a great showcase for the dual Darkroom strengths. Mike's endless imagination and sound palette with Os's arrangement and production skills combine to a fine mix of beauty and tension. While albums of this genre, constructed from samples recycled from other music, can sound awkward and disjointed, this one is no Frankenstein's Monster. All the source material is organically home-grown, and the result is coherent and human.

While they were chosing the album cover, Mike showed me the candidates. His favourite was the dated concord photo, in its a day an image of the future, now a dated relic. I particularly like this, Mike said, pointing to the flowery-patterned fold-up chair in the bottom left corner. Improvizone regular Nick Cottam and I were in a cheesy band several years ago, for which, as a symbol of my appreciation of this, I am happy to tell you I wore a thin nylon shirt with a strikingly similar design.

Andrew Booker
Original post here

Some Of These Numbers Mean Something reviewed by Michael Peters on Loopers Delight

I just had the chance to put my headphones on and listen really closely to Darkroom's newest album, enigmatically called 'Some Of These Numbers Mean Something'.

Darkroom (, as you all know, are LD members Michael Bearpark on guitars and loops and Andrew "Os" Ostler on keyboards and laptop. Guest musician on this album is electric drummer Andrew Booker who runs the Improvizone concert series in London - Darkroom + Andrew Booker are Improvizone's backbone and play on most of their gigs, often with guest musicians (e.g. I had the privilege to play with them last November, see the livelooping2007 page on my website). Usually, Os controls his own Augustus Loop plugin to loop not only his synths but also Mike's guitar while sending a clock signal to Andrew for the drums so that he can synchronize his drum delays, to add further rhythmical complexity.

btw two weeks ago I was very happy to see Mike Bearpark and Andrew Booker as part of singer Tim Bowness's band No-Man on the German leg of their September mini-tour - they did a wonderful job and it was a great evening.

The new Darkroom album ("file under Ambient Stadium Rock") contains nine improvised pieces. Mike's guitars are generally in the foreground - so much that the original album title was "place guitar under microscope". What strikes me every time I listen to Darkroom, and also on this album, is their specific sound: it is an organic whole - evolving, open, and full of rich textures while often containing surprising changes. There is never extensive soloing - maybe that would stand out too much and is therefore sacrificed for the sake of a more organic group sound. While Os contributes beautiful, often cinematic washes of chords, the complex and energetic rhythmic foundation laid down by Andrew Booker and the various distortion sounds often applied to Mike's guitars turn the Darkroom sound into something that often definitely goes beyond mere ambient music. Ambient with teeth, maybe.

My absolute favorite on this one is "No Candy No Can Do" which combines gorgeous Rhodes arpeggios, Hawaiian guitars and dreamy, unusual dub-like rhythms - this track is drenched in reverb and reminds me very much of 50's exotica, not so much because of the sound but because it immedately switches on images of faraway islands in my brain. Wonderful!

Buy this album today from

- Michael (
Original post here

Misfit City - Soundtracks

One night, in the midst of the hideous mudfest that was Glastonbury '97, crowds of soaked people were charging into the Halloween Society tent intent on finding out what that furious, fascinating noise was. Inside, a bloke onstage in wellies and cheekbones, bellowing out the frustration of a drenched weekend of trench-foot and swamp life; another bloke with a keyboard wobbling precariously on his lap and wrenching out swathes of digital splat, a third gamely battling with a zombified guitar and rebellious amp. Electronica was taking a beating, and hitting back with as good as it got: the sound wrenched at the canvas like a monsoon hitting puberty. For as long as the power held out, Glasto got the primal scream therapy it needed.

That's the legend, anyway. And that was a lot of people's introduction to Collective.

This demo CD (a kinder, gentler Collective, but still damn scary) was originally going to be called 'Autopsy', and you can see why. Os' disorienting, dreamlike electrophonic textures (as opposed to keyboard parts). The sort of beats that either quietly explode somewhere in the inner ear or create the impression of silent drumsticks just missing your head. Warm. Cold. Rage under glass, etching it like an acid. Surgical hallucinations. Fascinatingly numbing. David Lynch hijacking The Orb. Grieving under sedation, surrounded by clean and impassive white walls. 'Soundtracks' may be song-free, and devoid of recognisable tunes, but this is still intriguing, uncomfortable, weirdly beautiful music.

Reminiscent of the more bizarre moments on Scott Walker's 'Tilt' (in particular 'Face On Breast' - that one with the thudding, boxing glove drum pulse and the voice squashed like a fly), or of the Aphex Twin's forays into voices, Collective's music is a weave of tight-but-discreet loops and big eccentric spirals which are too unusual for obvious patterns to emerge. Looming in the middle distance, guitarist Mike seems to be under the impression that he's playing an angle-grinder most of the time. Think industrial Frippertronics rather than skysaw, though: truly textural and most unorthodox, though his parts are the closest Collective comes to direct melody. When not carving wounds and dark shapes, or hums and snarls, he plays autistic-angel chorus guitar, like a darker and colder Fripp ('Storm Angel', 'Requiem', 'Here Comes The Flood').

Tim's vocals - the human edge to Collective's alienation - are shocking. Wordless, abstract, swinging dangerously between teary, vulnerable wonder and scorching, screaming anger, they're torn up out of his throat like an exorcism, or like someone speaking in tongues and fighting against it. Free-form, wandering: sometimes outraged, sometimes deranged. Using his full range from whisper to scream, from baritone groan to falsetto lament to a deep-throated keening roar: a bit like Tim Buckley's 'Starsailor' but more naked, lost, dangerously unstable. Certainly a change from the usual sugary or doped-out mumbling you get on most post-rock/electronica projects (q.v. Labradford, Insides).

From the suffering trance of 'Vladimir' (like the extraction of a tooth by hypnosis) to the muttering interplay of fretless bass and voice on 'Mindbreath', from the waves of ringing child-call in 'No History' (over a slow wash of breakbeats), to the patter and dizziness of 'Crashed', 'Soundtracks' is bewitching and quite alien. Collective play us out with the withdrawn enigma of 'Alien Grace', on which Os and Mike, left to their own devices, stare each other down and compete at a sort of minimalist's game of chicken, playing off each other with the minimum of notes while still unpicking the stitches in the fabric of sound. Music from the dark nodes of the mind, deeper than fear.

Dann Chinn

Misfit City - Seethrough

Transparent neither in style nor intent, Darkroom's second album is demanding, mysterious; trickily opaque. Not an unfamiliar position for this most obscure, obscured and inexplicable of ambient/illbient groups.

The billowing instrumentals of Darkroom's first album, 'Daylight', made their points obliquely through a spray of trip-hop grace, thick detail and industrial derangement. And about half of 'Seethrough' follows a similar path - baleful/beautiful semi-improvised noisescapes of layered electronics, angrily stewing loop guitar and naked, caress-through-to-howl voice. The glutinous, dubbed-up 'Galaxy Craze' has resident synth necromancer Os firing off ratlike background rattles and spectral drum'n'bass rhythm triggers - a threatening arrhythmic undulation with Tim Bowness' minimal, wraithlike subway singing menaced by fretless-bass probing like a giant animal's tongue.

In contrast to the aviary-heat of Michael Bearpark's textured guitar, old-school '80s synthpop riffs underpin 'Charisma Carpenter'. These OMD tinklings are an unexpectedly cheerful counterpart to Tim's lustrous, vaporous vocal chanting - always the most bizarre aspect of Darkroom's music. Singing mere tumbling vowels or sounds on the edge of becoming words, he delivers them with an eerily precise, chilly diction: like droplets of lovesong, freezing to alien sleet as soon as they leave his mouth.

Only 'Kaylenz', though, hints at the shocking intensity of Darkroom on full, live, improvising intensity. Fourteen sprawling, disorientating minutes with the tension between the celestial and the pestilential growing ever more violent. Electronica loops shade upwards into alarm, distorted hospital bells shrill, and the country-toned guitar tang gives way to sharp buzz-edged swarming. The vocals, too, travel from weary, loving sorrow to a hysterical pitch of recriminations and a dash of lyrical perversity. Just before 'Kaylenz' steps up - or breaks down - into a chaotic torrent of frighteningly emotional randomness, we hear Tim singing in a lost corner of the studio. A bored, beautiful detached whisper of "you again, you again - / who's to blame, if it's all the same?"

Which brings us to the wild card of 'Seethrough' - presenting Darkroom's songwriting side, sketching withering surreal portraits of disenchantment and alienation helped along by spacey glissandos of electric slide guitar. They've dabbled in words before (on the drum'n'bass/Fripp & Eno soundclash of the 'Carpetworld' single) but here it's more leisurely, more controlled, more disturbing. In some ways extending Tim's work on the cryptic dark-city musings of No-Man's 'Wild Opera', in others it reflects the burnt-out, amoral contemplations of Tricky's surreal, spliff-fuelled 'Maxinquaye'. Although if so, this is Tricky as played by Alec Guinness, dropping casual, vinegar-dry references to both Def Leppard and Janet Frame while somehow maintaining a ghostly mystique unhindered by the flapping of library cards. On the bobbing Morricone-meets-Orb dub of 'King Of The Cowboy Singers', Tim's guarded, musical speaking voice recites both nonsense and significance to the beat - "trying to find a new life in an old boot, /
walking to the new place in your old suit - / the king of the cowboy singers, / the toast of the Old School dinners..." The roiling, improvised star-stuff that usually pools out of Darkroom's speakers is swapped for Dada-tinged narratives of shifting identities and habits, of introverted, stiffly English insanity and implosions of starched order.

But if Darkroom are no longer playing live from the surface of the sun, they've only retreated as far as a ski-lodge on Mercury. The glimpses of sky are always a bright merciless glare, the ground always dry dust, the scenery just a few steps away from white-out. Surly and blinded, 'Bludgeon Riffola' surfaces through a swimming of harness bells as a filthy punk-blues fed through post-rock and tracer-paths of needling synth-noise, Tim's petulant vocals rope-swung and curdled with distortion. And the album's masterpiece - the ten-minute stretch of 'Bottleneck' - is blindingly white and exposed; a sinister mixture of Aphew Twin and Bill Frisell. Sparse, desolate slide guitar is chewed at by Os' echoing dead-sea-surf static and smeared brass textures. Tim's lonesome vocal (once it finally arrives) rides a stately dance of plucked orchestra strings, drawing out the shapes of a puzzle of betrayal and disgust. The charges are clear - "You never really loved your wife... / you never really knew your boys... / you never even liked the girl you said had claimed your heart - restart, restart." But the story's obscured: gaps between snapshots swallow it up. The figure of a man is reduced to a hat, a cigarette; an unfinished meal; an absence.

Then again, Darkroom aren't here to provide clarity. 'Seethrough' itself seals the album in a light and feverish running pulse, frosted by far-off gilded sprays of quiet prog rock guitar. It's tremulously sweet and frantic - trance-techno that's neurotic rather than narcotic - and with a blurred, vocoder-ed vocal that queries the giddy transcendence of the music. "Too much misunderstanding; too much, too little love. / Too much to keep your hand in, too much to float above." Dancing lightly on its feet, it moves with the crowd only to slip away quietly as the dreams evaporate. "Too much deliberation, too much you want to be. / Too much anticipation, too much you'll never see - see through, seethrough."

Blink, and it's gone. Darkroom tease us with clarity, but lead us to a vanishing in the end.

Dann Chinn

Original article

Misfit City - Fallout 3

The kinder, gentler Darkroom? Mmm, possibly - but it seems an unlikely label.

Nonetheless, 'Fallout 3' initially seems something of a let-up from Darkroom's unsettling dark-ambient explorations. Os, the group's synthesist and studio-flexer, now seems to be exerting most of the active control over the emerging music. On this occasion he does this through drastically remixing more of those Darkroom live tapes which have spawned the 'Fallout' series. This time it's "a celebration of the art of post-production", compressing their rich and chaotic improvised sprawl into a thickening wall of noise. Darkroom as jelly, rather than the usual coils of prismatic vapour. In the process, it displays a side of the group which may well appeal more to those ambient aficionados and art/noise acolytes who've so far proved immune to - or unconscious of - their brooding wide-open power.

This time, the art-rock richness of Tim Bowness' keening, beautiful-agony vocal (previously something of a scene-stealer, especially at its most Hammill-esque) drifts faintly through the mix like a displaced ghost. Half-obscured, half-dreamy, its physical presence fades to a livid imprint. The industrial-melodic textures of Mike Bearpark's guitars and his layered MiniDisc manipulations have sunk even deeper than before into the fabric of Darkroom sounds, as have the body of most of the drum loops. The most audible instruments to be heard for this latest hour-and-a-quarter of Darkroom are the humble studio fader and the reverb unit, teasing their way through building detail.

Turned right down, 'Fallout 3' sounds like the smooth peanut butter to the crunchy variety of 'Fallout 1' and '2'. But turned up, the music piles up inexorably like a thick fluid, shot through with veins of displaced voices. Sometimes they're Bowness, processed almost beyond recognition to become muttering crowds or alien choirboys; sometimes they're radio voices stroked out of the ether by Os' continuing casual interest in plunderphonics. The little instrumental dialogues and monologues that used to weave through Darkroom pieces have been melted down too. All goes to feed this amorphous monster.

The result is that - more than ever - Darkroom's music has the amnesiac, dissolving qualities of oceans. Powerful, ever-massing, and strangely indifferent to the repercussions of its nature. Although the sound's closer to dry land, if perhaps not stable ground. The continuously rumbling geological depth and the thick "angry-earth" quality to the sound brings this reinvented Darkroom closer to the relentless, tectonic grind of Robert Hampson's dark-ambient process music with Main. And like Main's, the pieces on 'Fallout 3' are much of a muchness: all slightly differing curves on a line mostly heading in one direction, arcing beyond post-rock to the land of out-rock. There's far less of the more identifiable "Fripp & Eno swimming in Lee Perry's galactic fishtank" tendencies of the past - the always diffuse identities of the Darkroom players are now barely there at all. The music has turned them inside out.

Consequently this is seventy-five minutes of impressive and utter liquefaction that's still identifiably Darkroom. And which also enables them to thumb an invisible nose at past accusations of formlessness. Even when their musical substance is reduced to something as intangible as this, Darkroom's baleful and beautiful intent remains intact: something far beyond the easy trance to which most electronic acts are finally reduced. Their vision is still inexplicable and alien. It's also still undeniable.

Neither kinder nor gentler, then. Just even more seductively suffocating and inscrutable.

Dann Chinn

Original article

Misfit City - Fallout 2

The second in Darkroom's trilogy of interwoven concert travelogues sees them shrunk to fit circumstances. 'Fallout 2' records those times when, due to the occasional absences of vocalist Tim Bowness, this unorthodox dark-ambient trio fell back on being a duo. The five lengthy live tracks here see Darkroom's sound entirely built up from Os' infinitely malleable, polluted ocean of electronic sounds and Michael Bearpark's heaven-and-hell masses of loop guitar.

Subtracting the singer should have meant removing the human face from Darkroom's activities, and forcing their music - with its hanging menace, dense atmospherics and chaotic leanings - further down the road to alienation. In fact, the opposite is true. Minus those fragmentary Bowness sighs, whispers and melodic wails, Darkroom relinquish some of their edge of romance and distress. But they also dispel a lot of the intimations of human disintegration, morbidity and panic that those beautifully tortured vocal tones brought to the project. In his absence, Darkroom is able to relax and experiment with a two-way balance instead of the three-way teeter they'd thrived on previously. Os and Michael sit back and play off each other - not in unison, but in a dialogue of occasional crossings and of deceptive, mock-disengaged responses.

As with 'Fallout One', the two-man Darkroom continue to embrace instinctive wandering noise-stews rather than art-rock discipline. For this album, they're gentler brews - the first beginning with a serene duet of heaven-scented loop guitar and a windblown squiggle of pink noise. Released from some of his duties as textural foil, it's Michael who now gives the music its anchors - cyclic calling phrases, sometimes humming confections of layered Frippertronic-like loops, sometimes space-echoed licks, sometimes a sound like someone wrenching their way out of a giant metal tank. Os, as usual, takes responsible for most of the layers of sonic detail and for the most drastic directional shifts within Darkroom's ever-restless improvisations.

Os' increasing plunderphonic tendencies (linking and threading pieces with snippets of international radio conversation, Cambridge choristers, muezzin calls) prove that behind his responsibilities for the body of Darkroom's sound, he's also the joker in the Darkroom pack. He dials up effects and textures from a vast trickbag of electronic sounds which he then sloshes across the speakers and leaves to evolve. His rhythms, too, betray a sense of cool, amused mischief. He'll stitch in trails of techno beats, or hijack a piece five-and-a-half minutes in with jazzy cymbals and toms drenched in flapping dub treatments. He'll even drop in the occasional comedy drum wallop to accompany some blooping synth sounds apparently stolen off a kiddy-ride in a shopping center. Inscrutable humour aside, he also assembles a remarkable variety of imposing psychedelic cadences, static veils and suggestive electrophonic shapes to flesh out Darkroom's randomness.

Though Michael Bearpark's playing still owes a debt to Robert Fripp (via the "Bearatronics" loops and occasional digressions into trumpet-guitar), he's far less formally-minded. And while you could also draw parallels to the mangled roots sounds David Torn uses in his sPLaTTeRCeLL project, Michael is a far more reticent, distant and watchful guitarist: less flamboyant, but similarly eclectic. Across the album he comes up with the kind of junkyard guitar that Marc Ribot would be proud of, or treats us to yanks and scrabbles of twanging guitar in the vein of Henry Kaiser or Fred Frith. He unwinds collapsing, Spanish-guitar-style electric rolls; or feeds in the Bill Frisell-influenced ghost-country minimalism that he's increasingly stamped onto Darkroom music. Os responds with gusty, gauzy swirls of noise, or busies himself chopping up the sound even as Michael enriches it.

It's co-operation of a kind, I suppose. Sometimes the Bearpark/Os interplay is gloriously subtle; more often, they're engaged in a game of reverse-chicken in which they seem to be seeing just how far they can wander from each other's playing before Darkroom collapses, adding a kind of free-jazz risk to the elements of illbience, Krautrock and musique concrete that already flourish in the group's sound. Darkroom's abstract shapelessness - or, more accurately, their indifference to and boredom with the monotonous formality of much electronic music - seems to put a lot of people off, but their loosely-knit and liberated music still has few rivals or peers in electronica.

Dann Chinn

Original article

Misfit City - Fallout 1

Maybe it's the dispiriting "not on Warp Records or Rephlex" syndrome. Maybe it's the frustration of bouncing off 'The Wire's defense radar, or maybe it's simply the difficulties of working in abstract electronica; but the mightily amorphous Darkroom seem to have been in retreat in recent years. Strategic retreat, that is, rather than slinking off to lick their wounded diodes. They're still active, particularly in their native Cambridge - haunting basements, galleries and art cinemas when they can, recording hours and hours of live material.

Still more or less unknown, they've been making the most of this anonymity to continue to explore their unsettling take on ambient music, unencumbered by the demands of the more familiar electronica clubs or by any micro-cultures other than their own. The 'Fallout' trilogy (of which this is the first installment) is the result. Unadulterated Darkroom live and in the raw, with the song experiments and the more disciplined aspects of their last album 'Seethrough' abandoned in order for the group to embrace more of the chaotic, massy, polytextural wanderings that they touched on in their 'Daylight' debut.

The tracks on 'Fallout One' are functionally numbered, 'One' to 'Seven'. Not one of them is graced with a name or clue of any kind - no sine-wave surfing, no snippets of French or intimations of disturbance, no jokes, not even any nods to Darkroom's old Samuel Beckett fetish. Any associations which you make are entirely your own. And Darkroom don't guide. They drift through their music with a mixture of utter authority and confusing haphazardness, stirring ideas in and spinning them out. You can't place yourself with this music - merely live with it.

'Fallout One' also emphasises an increasing musical dominance by Os, the synthesist corner of the Darkroom triangle. Fresh from his solo adventures outside Darkroom in Carbon Boy, Os brings in the glut of shortwave radio voices from that project, disrupts Darkroom's light-footed beats into free-jazz stumbles, and regularly distorts and destroys any settled landscapes that the group have settled on with his relentless mutations of dense electronics. Michael Bearpark, lurking in the background, concentrates on turning his guitar into a slowhand blur of inscrutable forbidding noise and building up aquamarine loops like a coldly psychotic take on Michael Brook.

Most displaced now is abstract singer Tim Bowness. Whenever his vocals appear, they're as shocked, drowning, incoherent whoops and keens; always half-submerged in the swirl of choking ambience and psychedelic space echo that his collaborators are cooking up. As ever, the effect is similar to the contorted vocal tapestries of Tim Buckley's 'Starsailor', but this time being gradually sucked down a black hole, protesting all the way.

Caught as live as this, Darkroom's music is more disorientating and disturbing than it's ever been before on album. Though always too lushly endowed with timbre and detail to be unrelentingly hostile, it offers little in the way of chill-out calm or methodical reassurance. Even the gentler tracks such as 'Three' or 'Four' regularly see Darkroom's more pastoral landscapes bent out of shape - a mantric Bowness chant of "say" will be overcome by data squirts and snippets of Gregorian chant; a hum of guitar will be scratched over by a violently juddering, reedy electronic screech; clicking needles will have a strange banana-boat yodel stretched across them. And throughout, Os' sculpting of the sounds induces sonic meltdown. Hiccups of sounds, whale song, a mutilated loop of geothermal Mellotron or a dignified broadcaster's voice will all be sucked up, shredded and blown out, or brought round and round like a small corpse flattened onto a moving tyre.

Darkroom offer nothing easy in their collision of the beautiful, the horror-inducing and the plain distorted. 'Fallout One' is music for dissolving cities - a coolheaded embracing of confusion.

Dann Chinn

Original article

No Warning!

translated from the Italian by Antonio Gambale

This is the fourth live release for Darkroom, after the 'Fallout' trilogy on the 'Burning Shed' label, following two solo albums and a studio EP - almost as if to intentionally underline the predominantly improvisational nature of the band, headed by Os and Michael Bearpark. The three long tracks featuring on this record, each with a duration of between twenty and twenty-five minutes, reveal a Tim Bowness-like absence, characterised in the form of monumental pieces, entirely instrumental; the influence of Fripp & Eno's work on Darkroom seems undeniable, just listen to the first track recorded during rehearsals with Bearpark and Os along with the contribution of Simon H. Fell on acoustic bass, where it's not hard to pick up on similarities with the Swastika Girls. Much more expansive, both in terms of atmosphere and duration (at 24 minutes and 38 seconds), is the second track recorded at the Unitarian Church of Cambridge: here the work of Bearpark and Os pushes toward obsessive repetition, following an electro-minimalist beat which evolves in aerial spirals that hold the listener under siege, between rarefication in the extreme, and echoes of The Heavenly Music Corporation. The initial portion of the third track is basted with liquid guitar arpeggios, recorded at the Portland Arms in Cambridge with a lineup including Peter Chilvers on bass, dispersing itself into a tight study of loops that recall the style of concise composition on their brilliant first album 'Daylight'. Far from showing signs of fading, Darkroom confirm themselves again as one of the more couragious acts in the world of ambient electronica. 'Freefall', like Peter Chilvers' album 'Free' is not commercially available but is in free circulation; follow the instructions given in the review of 'Free' to obtain a copy of Darkroom's new album for yourself.

Phosphor Magazine (September 2003)

The fourth live album in the 'fallout' trilogy can be obtained for free in the internet. The people behind this project even ask you to make copies and distribute them. So, do your best to pass it on, because the music on this album is excellent!

The first track by Freefall is entitled Rehearsal, Royston 26/1/2003 Mike and Os with Simon H. Fell (acoustic bass) are the persons who are responsible for the music. This 20 minute long track slowly evolves into a beautiful ambient soundscape, in which dreamy atmospheres go together with harmonic frequencies. Lovey dark and gentle waves slowly meander into warm hypnotic ambiences where some occassional psychedelic sounds concrète have been added.

Both next tracks are live. The first one, 24 minutes long, has been recorded at during the Bleepfest at the Unitarian Church, Cambridge 21/11/2002. Again Mike and Os offer a calm sensitive approach in which tranquilizing dark ambient slowly gets denser and starts to make the speakers vibrate.

The last track is a live recording by Mike and Os with Peter Chilvers (electric bass). Calm electronics and some bass have been combined with spoken word samples in the background. The second part of the piece gets more hectic. More musical elements are used and the sounds change more often, ending an excellent CD.

Exposé #27 (review of Burning Shed Sampler Two)

Darkroom’s “Excerpt (from Fallout 3)” is a spacious soundscape that relies on thin washes of metallic wind and blurry voices to create a dizzying tone.

Full review here.

Jeff Melton

Ampersand Etcetera

‘Fallout One’ is described as containing ‘live recordings from [5] performances’ but I am not sure if it is a ‘live’ album or a recreation from that material, by Michael Bearpark, Andrew Ostler and Tim Bowness. Either way it as dramatic and indescribable album (but we’ll try anyway). There are seven tracks which are really larger index points in the overall total scheme of the disk - the pieces segue into each other, and none are simple, but rather change shape, direction and structure throughout the named parts. There are some overall moods to each track, but it does feel like an organic whole.

Some relatively constant features: Bowness voice is present on most tracks, not doing straight vocals but singing or chanting phrases which are then looped and layered to create extended textures, at the start of ‘Seven’ for example, or the middle of ‘Two’. These vary from syllables, words and even phrases, but like the rest of the disk they become part of the changing soundspace. There are also samples throughout, usually sounding like radio captures sometimes singly and sequenced as at the opening of ‘Two’ or superimposed to make a crowd in ‘Three’. Bass is obvious in a number of places and the whole is full of atmospheric textures and sounds.

The dominant feeling is of a constantly changing kaleidoscopic event: ‘One’ for example shifts between radio samples, atmospherics and voice loops, bloopy beat bubbling up, modulating the voice to tones, shimmering dark tones and dubby beat, becomes clattery and electric guitar, looped radio, bass and key melody, beat plus the voice, beat fractures and dolphins call, sqrly sound increasing and decreasing in pitch, beat and melody, mumbling voices, a beat that loses sync, strange voice manipulated, radio voices, beats and clicks and into a long end of bleeps, clicks and voices. Admittedly this is the longest track at 21 minutes, but the others are similarly active in their shorter spaces. And it is not as fractured as it reads, as components fuse into each other melding and blending to create a fascinating sound space. They shift between atmospherics and beaty periods which could be machines or looped clicks and snaps. Some of the shorter pieces are more focused - ‘Four’ is more minimal and darker with some beats but more drones, washes, bass and Bowness saying ‘round’, ‘Six’ is probably more beaty, there is a Fripp sample used in ‘Seven’ which again uses the voice a lot. There are also some very melodic periods, like the cello in ‘Three’ or the chantlike aspect that runs from ‘Two’ into ‘Three’. I don’t know if I am making this sound as fascinating as it is - the structure changes but never loses focus or direction and is constantly absorbing.

The AMG All Music Guide - Daylight

Though the Carpetworld EP introduced a much more vigorous dance element to Darkroom's palette, the full length Daylight album comes across as a blend of that with the generally more understated approach of Seethrough. "Sprawl," early in the record, sets the tone as much as anything, with skittering drum'n'bass loops and cut-ups shot through with buried chanting, slower beats, and heavily flanged guitar and other instruments. As has often been the case in earlier releases, Tim Bowness essentially steps aside from singing to let Bearpark and Os create a fair amount of the music, with the former's guitar and the latter's ear for production and various dance music inspirations often resulting in notable efforts. "Carpetworld" and "Daylight" both reappear from Carpetworld itself. The latter is a sweetly narcotic track with a crackling vinyl rhythm, with Bowness' wordless vocals echoing amid guitars and keyboards, but otherwise, all the tracks are new compositions. "No History" is a good example of the less-is-more approach Bowness employs here, his calling, seemingly desperate vocals mixed low, sounding like distant signals behind the rolling breakbeat and Bearpark's synth/guitar melodies. As the track continues, Bearpark steps more to the fore with some excellent soloing, rough yet weirdly pretty, while Bowness' singing re-echoes in the mix every so often. Perhaps even more minimal is "Died Inside," an 11-minute long cut where echoes of Bowness' vocals provide the rhythm while all three performers add just-on-the-edge-of-the-mix elements of their own throughout. It's an entrancing effort, with the right combination of subtle drive and aural mystery. Though the two concluding tracks have linked names -- "Vladimir" and "Estragon," the lead characters of Samuel Beckett's famed piece of abstract theater, Waiting for Godot -- the latter contains a subtle, steady beat deep in the mix while the former explores a more ambient yet edgy experience.

Ned Raggett

The AMG All Music Guide - Fallout 3

The final of the three Fallout releases follows readily in the vein of the second one -- again assembled from a variety of different live shows in 1999 and 2000 and assembled as one long track in a series of numbered parts, Fallout 3 is by turns mysterious, invigorating, and meditative music. The combination of Bearpark's guitar and other instruments with the general synth/sound assemblies of Bowness and Os again leads the way, as snippets of half-heard vocals and tunes hover around the edge of perception. Tracks like "Four," with its deep echoes and murky swells of electronic waves, and "Eight," with guitar tracing a beautiful though not overtly obvious melody through further dark caverns of haunting cries and calls, help justify the whole project from start to finish. "Five," likely by intention, starts out almost like an orchestra tuning up, though the inclusion of dub-tinged beats -- with echo aplenty, unsurprisingly -- again shows the trio's general bent for mixing and matching. "Ten" concludes the album on the longest note, a 12-minute piece that could be everything from a particularly sorrowful form of whale song to a faraway factory crumbling in the distance. It's both serene and a little disturbing, which does describe Darkroom in a nutshell in many ways. If there's a key track among the complex web of selections, "Nine," though one of the shortest numbers, could well be it. With a particularly inspired Bearpark performance on display -- his guitar here captures both a certain melancholic yearning and a strange alien power all at once, signals from a dying machine somewhere distant -- the swirling, enveloping arrangement around it further intensifies the experience.

Ned Raggett

The AMG All Music Guide - Fallout 2

The second in the series of live recordings from the collective, Fallout 2 follows in its predecessor's footsteps by presenting four untitled live tracks (though details of where each track comes from are provided, namely from four separate shows in 2000 and 2001). Edited together to form one flowing full-CD piece, it's not the easiest of albums to explicitly concentrate on listening to -- the trio creates the music in its own good time and fashion -- but does reward closer attention. Exploring both calmer and more jittery impulses, the three go where they collectively wish to, the improvisatory nature of the shows more often than not turning up with some gems. The contrast between lush though buried synth tones and guitar textures with a squirrelly, twisting, and tweaked vocal sample (or so it sounds like) on "One" makes for good listening, as does the sudden inclusion of live drumming about 11 minutes in combined with more overt guitar playing. "Two," the shortest of the cuts (admittedly at 12 minutes total still fairly long) comes across as the most amorphous of the selections, dominated by Bearpark's often haunting guitar parts descending into a glitch-tinged sequence of semi-wind tunnel noise, his playing quiet calls in the subtle chaos. "Three" brings clearer though usually non-English-language vocal samples to the fore, heavily distorted at many points while a watery, calm background floats deep in the mix, before slowly but surely shifting into a glaze of static leading into the final track. "Four" wraps things up with everything from documentary bits on cathedrals to heavy, slow, and stoned beats, a tripped-out flow of sound. Various Bearpark notes and noises spike through the Os/Bowness web of music, sometimes in the subtlest of ways.

Ned Raggett

The AMG All Music Guide - Fallout 1

The first in a planned series of three live albums, Fallout One collects a variety of tracks, known only by numbers, from five separate live dates in 1999 and 2000 in London and Cambridge. In keeping with the trio's bent towards a variety of musical approaches, Fallout One doesn't so much capture a particular side of the band live as aim at a kaleidoscopic portrait, more than once within the scope of a particular song. Certainly that's the case with the introductory track "One," at nearly 22 minutes the longest song on the album. Beginning with a distorted vocal sample from another source and then half-understandable words and syllables from Bowness floating up through layers of reverb, everything from soft bass hums and static-laden piano to drum-machine cut-ups and random computer glitches and noises. It's an impressive performance, a good instance of electronic improvisation from performers comfortable with each other, and it sets the tone for the remainder of Fallout One. Similar elements reappear in the tracks without exactly repeating themselves, though throughout there's a very low rumble in the background of the mix providing a bed for everything else to build on. Nothing on Fallout One specifically calls to mind either Seethrough or Daylight, especially since Bowness for the most part avoids direct lyrics or singing in favor of wordless or hard to understand vocals and other electronic treatments and additions. An interesting -- if not downright nutty -- example of that comes when a soft Bowness croon on "Four" turns into a Bearpark guitar part, before a high-pitched squeal comes out of nowhere and repeats for a few times! "Six" has the clearest singing of all, but even that's cryptic enough, vocals eventually giving way to a chaotic collage of chipmunk-voiced snippets and heavily flanged static, among other things.

Ned Raggett

The AMG All Music Guide - Seethrough

The debut Darkroom release was an Internet-only affair -- seven tracks of experimental dance approaches meshed with Bowness' brand of confessional, emotionally intense pop. Given No-Man's work in that field, the jump to Darkroom wasn't a surprise, but wisely, the latter group doesn't set out to simply replicate the former -- this isn't No-Man with a different set of musicians. The emphasis is on low, moody atmospherics instead of the blend of brightness and shade that defines the Tim Bowness/Steven Wilson partnership. Bearpark's guitar playing generally concentrates on simpler, quietly hypnotic electric runs and shades, while Os' beats are swathed in heavy echo and gently trippy treatments. Bowness' singing matches this overall setting as well. Instead of the direct, cutting singing he practices in Samuel Smiles in partnership with Bearpark, on Seethrough he generally underplays his strengths to great effect, suggesting rather than stating boldly. The overall result isn't dance music in the stereotypical late '90s sense, but a recombination of various elements with quietly fascinating end results. A number of standouts suggest themselves from the seven songs, most notably the two longest cuts. "Bottleneck," which appeared on a later Samuel Smiles album in much different form, here starts with two overlaid Bearpark guitar pieces and a skittering rhythm from Os before building up to a frenetic, noisy high point and then suddenly back again. Bowness only then starts singing toward the end, making for a dreamy, unsettling coda. "Kaylenz," meanwhile, slowly but surely builds into a quite lovely and lush combination of shimmering melodies before taking a turn for the murkily aggressive toward the end. There's some definite flashes of humor as well -- a louder track, the jazz-touched swing and feedback crunch of "Bludgeon Riffola," is named after Def Leppard's vanity record label in tribute to Bearpark's youthful hard rock dreams.

Ned Raggett

The AMG All Music Guide - Carpetworld EP

The teaser single for the full-length Daylight, the lead-off title track of Carpetworld, takes a direct plunge into hyperactive drum'n'bass rhythms, a distinct difference from the earlier Darkroom recordings on Seethrough. It's an initially surprising but ultimately effective move; Tim Bowness doesn't change his style or singing approach any, but simply delivers his lines with a touch more edge here and there to stand out against Os' percussion loops. Bearpark adds in low-key guitar wails and other touches around the sides, making for an unsettling balance. "Carpetworld" itself reappears as "Carpetwarehouse," extending the original by four minutes while otherwise letting Bowness' lyrics stand out -- "Have twisted sex/With your ugly ex" makes for a great slam. The creepy title track from Daylight makes an appearance as well, while the EP as a whole concludes with "Ardri," a gentle swirl of looped synth/guitar chime and texture that recalls Os' solo work as Carbon Boy.

Ned Raggett

The Organisation of Sound

I don't know too much about this project but this is a very fine disc. This is the first quasi-Electronica disc that I've received, I say quasi-Electronica, because it far surpasses most Electronica that I've heard. Daylight is a combination of collage-like sampling, fat beats, and excellent production. This is one of those records that just so happens to have it all going on in the best possible way. This is a very clear and well-engineered recording as well that truly stands up to many listens. I would definitely be interested in hearing more of Darkroom's stuff. Darkroom's Daylight is a 1998 release on the Halloween Society label. Good stuff!

Matt Borghi

This Is Not Television #6 This Is Not Television #6

A thick drumbeat pushes its sluggardly pulse though King of The Cowboy Singers as though somewhere in the darkness cloying blood clots the veins, a pinprick camera nosing its way through rosy tubes, The nauseous headache of Bottleneck climbs from anaesthesia before spewing venom like a cornered snake in the faux-Stooges "Bludgeoning Riffola". The exquisitely unsettled tribulations of "Charisma Carpenter" give way to a suspended drift that coalesces as Kaylenz. In this sensory deprivation tank, Sunday church bells, heard-imagined (who knows which) toll beyond a curtain of dark disorientation. Seethrough pops and effervesces like seltzer in a glass. For all Darkroom line-up alongside the electronic noodlings of Boards of Canada and Third Eye Foundation, their material seems less theoretical, more densely organic, more messily, intractably human. Sounds with the dangerously hypnotic grace of a snake swimming towards you.

Wendy Cook

Robots and Electronic Brains Robots and Electronic Brains

Ironically titled, perhaps, "Daylight" is night-time music. Without the beats it would be lone-listening, darkened-room ambience, the kind of thing that Ochre would be putting out as a matter of course. With the beats, however, it's a communal affair with the ambience of flickering candlelight. It's an iron fist inside the velvet glove. Unusually for this kind of thing, it's the vocal tracks that work best, especially "Carpetworld" in which Underworld stripped down to their underpants repeat the refrain "Taking a twirl with your best friend's girl while the rest of the band torch Carpetworld."

Jimmy Possession

No Warning!

Nato con il nome di Collective da un’idea di soundtrack per un documentario sulla famosa autopsia del corpo di un alieno, il progetto Darkroom giunge finalmente al secondo album, dopo quello di esordio Daylight che fu preceduto a sua volta dal singolo Carpetworld. Secondo album uscito, bisogna dirlo, in forma un po anomala, dato che é stato messo a disposizione per download prima sul sito ed in seguito su, sito che offre anche la possibilità di acquistare il prodotto su CDR. Rispetto al precedente Daylight, Seethrough ci mostra Darkroom proseguire la loro ricerca in varie direzioni, giungendo in un paio di episodi (la title track e King Of The Cowboy Singers) a confezionare delle vere e proprie songs, seppure in un’ottica diversa da quella dei No-Man. Bottleneck é una lunga traccia costruita principalmente su una frase di chitarra dal sapore vagamente psichedelico, su cui la voce di Bowness può cimentarsi al meglio secondo il suo inconfondibile stile. Su tutte spicca sicuramente Kaylenz, il pezzo più lungo del disco, che partendo da un bel soundscape dallo stile quasi Frippiano si evolve in una sinistra bolgia di layers che l’ossessivo ed inquietante cantato di Bowness conduce alla conclusione. Seethrough non é sicuramente un disco facile, anzi lo si apprezza pienamente dopo ripetuti ed attenti ascolti, necessari per rimanere avvolti dalla cortina di sonorità che il trio Bearpark/Bowness/Ostler é in grado di produrre. Una piacevole conferma.

According to this translates into English as:

Born with the name of Collective idea of soundtrack for a documentary on the famous autopsy of the body of an alien, the project finally Darkroom comes to the second album, after the onset of Daylight which was in turn preceded by the single Carpetworld. According album released, we must say, somewhat unusual form, as has been made available for download on the site first and later on, site also offers the option to purchase the product on CDR . Compared to the previous Daylight, Seethrough shows us Darkroom continue their research in various directions, coming in a couple of episodes (the title track and King Of The Cowboy Singers) to build real songs, albeit in a different than the No-Man. Bottleneck is a long track built primarily on a guitar phrase taste vaguely psychedelic, on which the voice of Bowness, dare to better according to his unmistakable style. On all Kaylenz certainly stands out, the longest piece of the disc, starting with a beautiful soundscape style almost Frippiano evolves into a left bolgia of layers that obsessive worrying and sang Bowness leads to the conclusion. Seethrough certainly is not an easy disc, in fact you fully appreciate after repeated and careful listening, needed to stay immersed in the wall of sound that the trio Bearpark / Bowness / Ostler is capable of producing. A pleasant confirmation.

Amazingly at the time of writing (January 2008) this article is still up in its original location here.

Melody Maker

Darkroom are appropriately named, if nothing else. You can imagine their spooky, ambient drone being played by some sinister photographer as he develops pictures of half-dressed women he's been stalking/spying on. Most of the pictures will, of course, have been taken with a telephoto lens from the window of his plush penthouse, as he invades the privacy/privates of the young ladies who live in the apartment block opposite.

So I digress, but it is all a bit "Dirty Harry", and Darkroom can't be after anything resembling chart success. A film score, maybe? Like it hasn't been done before...

Holly Hernandez

Full Moon (Volume 5 Issue 1)

Something about Darkroom seem to make me want lie down, close my eyes and head up to space for a good while. Which is pretty weird since there's really some very scary stuff indeed going on here. A lot of similar stuff aims itself purely at the blissed-out market, taking few chances and even fewer liberties, Darkroom however are quite happy to lull me in then smack me in the face a huge slab of noise without caring too much about the effect on me.

It looks a whole lot more austere than it actually is though, with the cover boasting an industrial complex, but it certainly is not Industrial on the inside.

All in all a refreshing change that I'll be coming back to a lot.

DDddD #35

notta lotta hard info on this one - a few guys from the UK making mercifully-unclassifiable dancey music - quiet sheets of scattery D/B, there are real gtrs, there's Tim Bowness singing and gurgling over it all - he's the singer in No-Man, so you know we love him. Later, the D/B beats are abandoned and the thing turns into local-status ambient stuff that like does really fill up space and take yr time and that, oh the 5th track is nice, but the skimpiest underwear is saved till the final track, "Estragon" - it's that formula that never fails = background-ed beats and bassy rhythms with the kinda feedbacking keys/electronics sheeting away gently and Bowness crooning with his head back and the star above him making himself and me very transported and happy

Future Music (February 1999)

I don't normally like heavy, industrial drum'n'bass, and that's how Darkroom seem to promote this album. The album cover depicts a depressing gasworks-cum-junkyard scene and the accompanying press blurb won't shut up about "psychedelic chaos", "edgy neurosis of outrock" and "wild momentum of hardcore". However, I was pleasantly surprised. Daylight is actually a mesmerising, hypnotic trip through gentle drum'n'bass (if that's possible), and while the heartbeat-like drums keep up the momentum, it's never "wild" and the weaving melodic lines and gentle synth bleeps are never "edgy". The only dodgy bit is the wayout electric guitar noodling on Died Inside which is a tad weird.

Look beyond this book's cover and you'll find a beatifully crafted selection of carefully layered tracks which are simultaneously bleak yet enchanting. My God, am I still talking about drum'n'bass?

Forget your squint-inducing drill beats and hi-hats that sound like the drugged up drummer's got a nervous twitch. This is different. And I like it!

Lisa Savage


I have to admit the Darkroom meant nothing to me until we received this, but then were always pleased to check out releases from Northhamptonshires 3rd Stone Records, home of sundry left-field pop, wayward electronica and psychedelic dance. Actually, strictly speaking, while available through 3rd Stone, Daylight is in fact the debut album on the recently-launched The Halloween Society label, a venture of neo-progsters No-Mans Tim Bowness. Well, Bowness has certainly shown some considerable savvy with this release. Combining dark guitar rock with drum and bass is not necessarily a giant step, and certainly not a unique one. But its done here extremely well indeed, with deep, heavily dubbed out basslines and clattering, constantly-shifting drum and bass rhythm programming underpinning psychedelic guitar solos, ice-cold ambient soundscapes and, occasionally, blissed-out indie-kid vocals. The results are very finely crafted indeed, and create a mood of oddly lush bleakness: a mood at once oceanic and glacial. Really rather beautiful. The Halloween Society have also released a single/EP from the album, Carpetworld. Lets hope this new labels life is a long one.

Simon Hopkins

This review can now be found on

Misfit City #1 - Daylight

To work out where Darkroom are coming from, you could do worse than take a look at 'Daylight's arresting cover. It's a study of sturdy, corroded old industrial tanks, encircled by metal stairways and surrounded by a devil's playground of battered, abandoned plastic drums. The drums are marked with hazard labels but yawn open, suggesting that their toxic contents have long since leached out into the environment. Behind the towering tanks are a radiant blue sky and a slanting blanket of pure white fluffy cloud, so that they rear up like Reims Cathedral. It's beautiful, in a warped way - the wreckage and castoffs of a once-bright new industry which nonetheless continue to assert themselves. But in this toxic paradise there's not a person in sight.

No, this isn't suggesting that Darkroom are the sort of electronica trio who revel in futurism and excise humanity from their orderly sequenced, oscillating musical vision of the world. Quite the opposite - Darkroom's music (in which Os' sequences and textures are balanced by Mike's mutated post-industrial guitars and Tim's naked, swoony vocal wail) has humanity in spades. The live instrumentation unites with the programmed sound and beats in a way that's rare in over- purified electronic music. But in the music that emerges - one in which the technology provides uncertainty rather than comfortable form, where the threat of chaos and upset looms in the background - the main note sounded is one of loss. One of the main qualities of daylight, after all, is its impermanence.

We've already heard the discontented seethe of the 'Carpetworld' single: roof-skittering drum'n'bass with guttering snarls of wounded guitar and Tim's voice reined in to a hooded whisper of acidic lyrics - the only ones on the record, and they're about bad sex, looting and dodgy discos. We've also heard the beautiful flush of the title track: a tumbling chant - mournful but blissful - against a slow wallow of bass, the singing notes of Mike's Frippertronical guitar, and Os' dawn chorus of flickering sound. Darkroom can do in-yer-face, and they can do strokin'- yer-cheek. Which they do in roughly equal amounts; and often both together, in an elusive blur of ambiguous emotion. The sort that makes you keep one eye on them and the other, anxiously, on the door. But which keeps you held in place, unable to resist the desire to see for yourself what comes next.

And ambiguity is the keyword for this music. Brash, defined techno structures are missing, their place taken by sketchy outlines which the trio fill up with evolving, chaotic detail. The beats are light-footed: slow breaks languidly pacing the background, or pattering techno pulses like rats' paws. The electronics hum like supercharged fridges close to bursting flamewards, or keen out lovely auroral shivers in the sky and in the shadowed spaces. Tim's full-voiced mixture of blurred wordshapes and subverbal whoops are sometimes Buckley-ish in their tortured flamboyance, sometimes more like Liz Fraser's outraged brother. Melodies drift, loop and contort: massy and queasily mutable, like cloudscapes tortured out of their natural forms by the force of some cruel idiot god.

Sometimes it sounds like Underworld tumbled from their throne and reeling with the impact of a massive nervous breakdown. Or like Fripp and Eno sailing their boat into much more malevolent waters. 'Sprawl' growls its overcast way past complex shifting slapping beats, squelched bass, crushed radio-talk and vocal frailties, a baleful camera scanning a wasteland. The opener, 'Crashed', is strung out, lovely but disfocussed, with a streak of elegant suffering running through. The guitars rattle like motoring moon-buggies, the voice oppresses like a summer shower, and somewhere in the background, behind the throaty tick of percussion, a lone voice of optimism: a marimba chinking out its own little Reichian wavelet.

There are episodes of naked grace on board, beside the pollution, but 'Daylight' is still one of the most subtly distressed records to wriggle out of recent electronica. This is most obvious in the wrenching, frozen agony of 'Vladimir', but 'Died Inside' seems to sob in anticipation for a collapse waiting to happen but never quite arriving. Looped calls, lilting gasps are answered across a chill echoing gulf by the icy fuzz of a guarded guitar, prowling and snarling in its own isolation: once, Tim's voice reaches a rare intelligibility - a panicked, unanswered plea of " d'you feel the same?"

The wonder that comes close in hand with this fear is laid out explicitly in 'No History'. A soft hip-hop beat holds down the sky-stretchingly rapt vocal and the beautiful subterranean guitar moans: a soundtrack to that forever- flavoured moment as you lie stricken at the bottom of that fatal crevasse watching the final, most brilliant stars of your life pierce the beckoning void overhead. Like a fleeting memory of softer times, a snippet of 'Dock Of The Bay' slips in. The amplifier buzz at the end's a benediction.

If there's a time when there's resolution, it's when those two questioning background voices reach out across the comforting pulse of 'Estragon': Mike's guitar like a high, bowed bell, Tim toned down to a florid whisper. Still, as it sails on towards its hushed conclusion, the key feeling of 'Daylight' remains one of loss. A lament for something unknown, but something voiceable. Something past reaching again as the day goes down and fades off into the poisonous beauty of a industrial sunset haunted by old, unquiet ghosts.

Dann Chinn

Original article here

The Wire (December 98)

At their best, Darkroom's post-Trance, new psychedelic eclecticism is aswirl with muffled beats, treated guitars and low end echo. Quality takes a dip with some lush but directionless multilayered pieces topped with over-stretched vocals. Once lost, the momentum is not regained until the closing track, which shapes up round a more purposeful rhythm.

Tom Ridge

Troll #4

Think I saw this lot in The Wire t'other day. Says it all I guess. Wanky, wacky, whirlly nonsense from folks who sound like they should know better. Art-rock bollocks basically.

Misfit City #1 - Carpetworld EP

Darkroom come swathed in contradiction: daytime shoppers on the sleeve, savage nightlife in the music. And no credits, though apparently it's another one of those confounded No-Man offshoots - don't these bloody people ever sleep or anything? Evidently not, if the tracks on this single serve as an example of the sounds pulsating through their brains.

'Carpetworld' itself breaks all the rules - the rules that say you can't put vocals and lyrics recalling Soft Cell-era Marc Almond over churning, vicious Frippish guitar ambience and hard-as-nails mechanoid beats falling somewhere between jungle and hardcore techno. A knife in the side of the rave generation's blissout, it's elegant in its brutality ("Taking a twirl with your best friend's girl, while the rest of the gang torch Carpetworld"), hovering in tatty clubs and observing the rituals of nihilism unfold as the backwash of bad E and the not-so-gentle '90s poison the clubbers' dreams.

Dance darkhorse it might be (it doesn't run with any obvious scene, and fuck knows which playlist it'll fit on in the increasingly segregated world of dance radio) but this is still cutting-edge contemporary, with absolutely no fluffiness and Tim Bowness spitting out lyrics the likes of which we've never heard fall from his previously poetic mouth - "Have useless sex with your ugly ex... / You velvet-sneakered chancer, you broken-fist romancer..." - as the beats flutter like a death's head moth trapped in the throat. I'll stay well out of the disturbing urban nightmare Darkroom are living in, but I'll happily live it vicariously through their warped imaginings. Dante's disco inferno.

After that, the 'Carpetwarehouse' reworking does lacks a certain spontaneity. The original sounds like it's literally fallen together in a paranoid improv session after a thoroughly unpleasant experience: This - apart from simply not being different enough - simply sounds like Darkroom have tried too hard at the atmospherics. OK, the beats are even more frenetic and Bowness achieves something he's previously never managed in previous recordings: i.e., sounding fucking terrifying as his distorted voice rasps out the repeated mantra "I'm coming after you!" If you ever thought, from listening to No Man's work, that you could have that Bowness chap in a fight - think again... Nonetheless, one does yearn for a battering, bloody remix from the diseased mind of Jim 'Foetus' Thirlwell, or Aphex Twin.

But, hell, Darkroom's maverick genius still encompasses enough space for much more roaming, ambient trips. 'Daylight', in particular. Tim Bowness (like Martyn Bates) has always had one of those voices that are perfect to use as an instrument integral to a piece such as this, weaving magical wordless nothings in and around underwater tones and splashes of electronica. Anchoring this thoughtful pause from drifting off into inconsequentiality, a beautifully melodic bass riff and eerily clattering percussion - like the echoing sound of camera shutters - keep proceedings somewhere near planet Earth.

'Ardri', though (nonsensical title - always a bad sign), reeks too much of late '70s/early '80s ambient - the kind of stuff the BBC would choose to soundtrack beautiful nature footage. Look, it's a personal thing - until someone out there finds even a slightly new direction with ambient (and I would certainly not rule Darkroom out of this), then the only sounds that interest me are the ones that either completely chill me out, or those that make the hairs on the back of my neck rise. This final track (like too much else in the field) gets my mind wandering after the first minute and thinking "So? What's next?"

So, a downbeat end to a marvellous debut from Darkroom. Buy it for the title track and (whatever my gripes) for the remix, and just treat them as one long, haunting slab of sonic terrorism. Brilliant.

Col Ainsley

Himself (October-November 1998)

Creating a futuristic fusion of DIY drum'n'bass, mad bastard guitar and urban lyrical sprawl, Darkroom - the brainchild of No Man's Tim Bowness - fashion a dazzling sound of latter-day psychedelic chaos from a world of dimly-lit, drugged-up drudgery. Well, that's according to their press release anyway. Think of a cross between Eno, Japan and The Aphex Twin, throw in a few hardcore beats and you're nearly there. Daylight is probably best heard after one too many spliffs.

Olaf Tyaransen


Darkroom offers further evidence that real musical innovation and exploration are now strictly the domain of the independent music realm. On its full-length debut Daylight, The British act, comprised of vocalist Tim Bowness, keyboardist/rhythmatist Andrew 'Os' Ostler and guitarist/loopologist Mike Bearpark, offers a composite of pounding drum'n'bass-ish rhythms, spiraling ambient backdrops and netherworldly atmospheres. Vocally, Bowness shifts between wordless harmonizing and scalding delivery of lyrics often steeped in acidic desires and depravity. It's potent stuff. The Carpetworld EP takes its name from the most deliriously twisted track off Daylight. It adrenalizes the piece with hyper-beats fully suitable for e-head frenzies or living room chill-outs depending on your leanings. Both releases are serious exercises in butt-kickery. Do what it takes to find them.

Anil Prasad

rated 4 stars = "excellent"

iO Pages #15

De muziek die op Soundtracks is terug te vinden, is voor het overgrote deel ook gebruikt voor films cq documentaires. Enkele nummers zijn speciaal voor deze release geschreven, maar kennen een enerzijds fragmentarisch gehalte of anderzijds een vrij eentonig karakter. Het album ademt voornamelijk een sterke ambient sfeer uit.

According to this translates into English as:

The music on Soundtracks can be found, for the vast majority also used for movies or documentaries. Some songs are written specifically for this release, but a familiar one hand patchy level or the other a rather monotonous character. The album exudes mainly a strong ambient atmosphere.

Wilco Barg

iO Pages 15