Darkroom

Seethrough

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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.

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