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Darkstar: Civic Jams

"Civic Jams may have been produced before the current climate,
but arguably only personifies the here and now, adding to the
ambience of what we make of our surroundings"

Tuning into the present with a brooding return, Darkstar set sail on a new direction for their fourth album ‘Civic Jams‘, their first in quite some time.

James Young and Aiden Whalley aka Darkstar have continuously evolved, you have to give them that much. From the early days crafting jams DIY style on their own label 2010, to Hyperdub, to repping Yorkshire in Stoke the Fire (Oi Oi), and landing another album on their home base of Warp. Their efforts push boundaries, relationships and sounds… often built to be played out live.

Civic Jams may have been produced before the current climate, but arguably only personifies the here and now, adding to the ambience of what we make of our surroundings. Darkstar have an innate ability to spring fresh ideas into their songwriting and production, never sticking to a particular point in a genre. Is it synth-pop? Is it melded from shoegaze? Where’s the drop maaate? Who cares, just let it be.

Moments like ‘Loon‘ and ‘Tuesday’ are pure displacement, providing some of the best examples of the tangible space that so carefully glues the whole of Civic Jams together. The beats are a palpable force pulling you into its audible landscape, setting up shop for the lyrics and vocals of Aiden Whalley to blur the lines. Having parted ways with James Buttery, Aiden has taken the helm and worked it in his favour, some of the best moments of the album are him in his stride, singing to the lost choir.

Bass creeping like caterpillars, new sounds blossoming like butterflies, there are so many textures and layers spread out sonically in Civic Jams, each track grows on you. Stand-outs in this album like the melancholic finale ‘Blurred‘, the bounce of ‘Jam‘, to the woozy anthems of ‘1001‘ and ‘Text‘ are all pieces of the puzzle at large, and from how the album is built, you can see it translating well on to the stage.

Distortion, effects and feedback awash to provide ominous waves of slightly emo euphoria, if Civic Jams was a scene in your life, it’d be one of those moments where your mate is about to come round yours, for one last all night bender before they move away to Bumfuck Nowhere, and you’ve got that deadline tomorrow… but everything can wait. It’s the last time you’ll see them, and you know it’s gonna be mad times, so the deadline can do one. You’ll recount this more than the elevator talk in the morning, but boy does it go faster than baby boomer teenagers used to feign over Elvis.

Jams for joints, Darkstar as a band have morphed over the years, and Civic Jams does have elements that you’d imagine, like tinges of bass, the heavier elements of electronic music spread over their tracks, but there are stranger shapes presented in the new piece that work really well, and it’s an enjoyable listen. Further enlisting the help of super shaper John Talabot for the remixes of Wolf, and original dubstep innovators Horsepower Productions for Jam, what a limbo throughout and beats paved with gold, down the yellow brick road.

‘Civic Jams’ is scheduled for release 19 June via Warp. Order a copy from Bandcamp.


1. Forest
2. Jam
3. 1001
4. 30
5. Wolf
6. Loon
7. Tuesday
8. Text
9. Blurred

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