Dark Horses

Black Music

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Following the success of their hypnotic singles "Radio" and "Alone," Dark Horses took a somewhat unexpected direction with their debut album Black Music. The band enlisted Death in Vegas' Richard Fearless as producer, and he emphasizes their eclectic, psychedelic side rather than their skills as a sinisterly catchy rock band. The opening track "Rose" doesn't begin Black Music so much as summon it into being with Lisa Elle's mantra-like singing, serene microtonal guitars, and a deeply trippy bassline. It's not the most obvious start to an album, and the appearance of songs like this and the churning "No Dice" early on detract from a clear sense of momentum. However, Black Music's highlights are worth the wait, and there are plenty of them: the implosive intensity of songs like "Radio" and "Traps" show why Dark Horses became friends and collaborators with Kasabian (whose Thomas Meighan shows up on the duet "Count Me In") and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. On these songs and the percolating "Alone" -- which suggests a less blues-indebted version of the Kills -- Elle is a mistress of minimalism, conveying more with a breathy whisper or slight snarl than other singers do with a full-bore wail. Elsewhere, the band show off their range with "Boxing Day," which sparkles and throbs to a Motorik beat that proves they can incorporate electronic elements into their sound more convincingly than many of their contemporaries. This willingness to try everything gets the band into trouble sometimes: interludes like "Chain Chant" and the title track contribute little to the album except extra running time. Then again, some of the detours they take, like the cover of Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere" and "Sannigen Om Dig," an eerie ballad Elle sings in her native Swedish, are welcome palate cleansers after some of the trippier excursions here. At nearly an hour long, Black Music might be a little too indulgent for its own good, but it's a grower that shows Dark Horses have more up their black-clad sleeves than might have been expected.

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