While We Were Sleeping
Apr 17, 2023
Dark Horses, the avant-gothic psych collective hailing from Brighton, UK, have finally unleashed their highly anticipated third album, While We Were Sleeping, after being delayed by a global pandemic. It’s an album that showcases the band’s unique artistic vision, which provides a welcome antidote to the instant gratification-driven algorithms that seem to dominate much of the current musical landscape.
Dark Horses have always marched to the beat of their own drum, refusing to follow the latest trends or be restrained by perceived limitations or boundaries of any particular genre. On their third full-length outing, they have created a body of work that demands to be experienced in its entirety, preferably taking a deep dive with your headphones firmly strapped onto your noggin. This is an album to spend time with, to have a relationship with, rather than swipe right after 10 seconds. It’s a genuinely immersive experience as each track blends seamlessly into the next, forming a sonic tapestry that transports the listener directly into the glittering orbit of Dark Horses.
Recorded with Bob Earland (Radiophonic Workshop, Kate Tempest), While We Were Sleeping is a musically complex and exhilarating body of work. Amongst the many highlights are the previous single “Hyper Green,” a magisterial psych track led by the charismatic Lisa Elle’s hypnotic, seductive vocals, replete with soaring guitar washes, which lend a modern-day Velvets and Nico on steroids kind of vibe to proceedings.
There’s plenty to appreciate throughout. “Yes Yes Yes” sways with a sensual rhythm and conjures up a dark trip-hop atmosphere, while the stunning “Lucy and Gulliver” explores the freedom and liberation of female sexuality. However, it also highlights the danger of how consumerism manipulates and commodifies it and how it can be perceived as a threat when viewed solely from a male perspective. It is as musically ambitious as the song’s subject matter might suggest and unfurls almost like a three-part symphony, beginning with dub-style guitars before Elle’s vocals prowl and curl themselves around a subtle bluesy piano. The final third is given rocket boosters and explodes into a mesmerizing, propulsive psych rock maelstrom.
The intoxicating rush of “Dawn Dusk,” with its driving beats, hypnotic melody, and even a Wakeman-esque prog keyboard flourish, is irresistible, drawing the listener into its propulsive and dynamic soundscape. Meanwhile, the sinister and brooding menace of the superb “Cut & Run” showcases Dark Horses at their most goth. The track sounds immense, possessing the widescreen swagger of The Sisters of Mercy while avoiding that band’s Andrew Eldritch’s tendency towards grandiloquence. “Holobiont” is another sprawling sashaying psych master class and leaves you scratching your head as to why the band isn’t massive, at least on a cult level.
Dark Horses have always been a visually arresting band, initially presenting themselves as a flamboyant retro-futuristic biker gang as reimagined by David Lynch. They also possess an innate ability to combine sound and vision quite brilliantly, proving that you can have both style, elegance, and substance. Brett Anderson of Suede is attributed to have once said, “It is the height of arrogance to get up on stage and not be extraordinary,” and Dark Horses are indeed extraordinary. While We Were Sleeping is certainly a welcome return and proves the “lightning” is still within them, illuminating the darkness and shining as brightly as ever. (www.darkhorsesmusic.com)
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