Dark Sky

Whatever the weather, spacious electronic trio Dark Sky can create their own brooding atmosphere that lingers long after the music stops. With just a couple of choice bits of sound equipment to play with, we find out how they do it...

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 2 Oct 2014
  • min read
Whatever the weather, spacious electronic trio Dark Sky can create their own brooding atmosphere that lingers long after the music stops.

Having relied on just two bits of analogue-inspired kit for their debut album imagin, they have somehow managed to create a multilayered, three-dimensional world of sound that reflects their mutual love of south London’s skittish music scene.

The record, which was released on Modeselektor’s Monkeytown label in August, harbours leftfield electronica, broken beat, post-rock and dubstep elements, building on the dark bassy club tracks for which they had already become known.

Matt Benyayer, Thomas Edwards and Carlo Anderson, who together make up Dark Sky, have been building up to this moment since 2009, playing, performing and remixing tracks for the likes of The xx, Kelis and Bombay Bicycle Club.

Their bi-weekly show on NTS Radio has helped to push their agenda further, and showcases their eclectic tastes, which includes everything from the forward-thinking electronica of Caribou to the smoked-out beats of Doctor Zygote.

We caught up with Matt and Carlo to learn more about their sound…

C: As we’ve got older we’ve paid a lot more attention to the sonics. We’ve been buying old analogue gear and we’ve spent a lot of time listening to music over the years – especially through our NTS radio show – we’ve been training our ears and that’s lead to developments in our own sound. Listening is such an important thing. I listen to a lot more types of stuff than I used to, and it’s definitely had an impact.

Have you heard anyone along the way who’s blindsided you with their production?
C: Funny you should say that – there’s this one guy called Doctor Zygote. Every now and again someone will come along and you’ll think, ‘Wow’. He’s one of those guys. He’s heavily influenced by library music from the seventies and is doing a modern twist on that kind of sound. It’s really interesting me at the moment. We’ve got him playing at our album launch party.
M: Electronically, I think Moderat are doing really interesting stuff, Four Tet and Caribou too – the usual suspects.

You’ve been incorporating more analogue sounds into your music recently. What was the impetus behind that?
M: With analogue, you get a lot more in return for what you put in.
C: You get happy accidents just from fiddling around, and you get an instant warmth. You’d have to put a lot more effort in to get the sound with digital. It’s easier to get a unique sound. Things like pitch drift are technically analogue flaws but they add so much. Today, the exciting thing is to combine analogue with the power of digital to create a whole new world to play with.

When you’re talking about analogue kit, do you mean the new hybrid equipment or the dusty old stuff from the eighties?
C: A mixture of stuff. Some of the old stuff isn’t very reliable but what’s been amazing recently is the massive revival in gear. Companies like Dave Smith Instruments are realising the potential market and capitalising on that. The problem with the old gear is that it isn’t reliable and not midi-compatible. The analogue/digital hybrid is quite a new mindset. Combining the two gives you the perfect middle ground where you’ve got all the accessibility and functionality, but the sound quality of analogue.

Is there a piece of kit that you’re hooked on at the moment?
M: We used pretty much two bits of gear for the whole album – the Arturia Minibrute and the Dave Smith Tetra, which came with a computer editor.

Some reviews of imagin have said it’s your most ‘musical’ music yet – what do you think about that?
C: There have been elements of melody throughout the Dark Sky back catalogue… But there are tracks which have more elements of bass and drums in them and they’re darker and more clubby… But I think we’ve always tried to make sure there’s melody in there.
M: We were thinking about the live context while writing the album and wanted to be able to interpret it in that space too. Right now, Carlo is doing the synth top lines, Tom’s on bass and I’m on drums.
C: And we have the vocalist Cornelia. So between the four of us we’re interpreting it in a modern way – we’re sticking to the principles of combining analogue and digital.

Is there anyone who has inspired your live set?
C: Definitely, there’s the obvious ones like Four Tet and Caribou, Moderat as well.
M: The initial problems we face are that we’re coming on after a DJ who’s got mastered records that sound really loud. How do you match that kind of energy? We’ve had that issue while working on the live show, but it’s been an interesting journey!

With imagin, did you sit down to write an album?
M: We’d always talked about doing an album and there are a few tracks on there that we’d earmarked like Manuka. I think the real album process took about a year and a half.

You mention Four Tet and Caribou who have both been making electronic albums for a while now. Do you think the format has become more legitimate recently, with the likes of Mercury-nominated Jon Hopkins and Rocketnumbernine making big waves with their recent albums?
C: I think we’re part of a generation that has slowly grown up and evolved from the EP format. We’re slowly getting to grip with singles and EPs and I think, over the coming couple of years, the next logical step for a lot of guys is going to be albums. It felt right for us to have a go at it and looking back now we learned a lot of things through the process that we want to take through to the next album.
M: I think also, there’s a lot more credibility associated with electronic music than there ever has been. Electronic producers always ranked below bands but people are now looking to Caribou, Four Tet, Jon Hopkins and see them as credible artists in their own right, not just as electronic producers. There’s less of a boundary between traditional musicians and electronic artists.

Have you got any remixes or collaborations coming up?
C: We’ve been remixing a band called Glass Animals, we’ve just finished working on their track Hazy.
M: Apart from that, we’re just working on the live show and getting that as good as we can.