People have often made fun of the local music scene in Leicester. It's regarded as irrelevant by dwellers in the south, and seen as non-existent by the Mancunians. Kasabian being Leicester’s gift to the world… That is, according to the charts. In terms of live music, Leicester quite frankly, isn’t the best place to be. Nearby Birmingham is falling further and further off the schedule because of the appalling nature of boring audiences. Nottingham is overlooked, with the indie rock heaven Rock City and the eclectic venue of the midlands, Bodega Social Club. Derby is... Derby. Depending on personal taste, Leicester has some nice bars and pubs which offer live music on an eclectic scale, with De Montfort Hall and the O2 Academy offering the chart topping artists. Possibly the best place for music in Leicester is Firebug, run by John Helps, who is also a writer for The Monograph, and a member of Leicester’s biggest post-rock export, Maybeshewill. Jamie Ward is another member of Maybeshewill, a known producer and the bassist/vocalist for today’s review, Dark Dark Horse, along with vocalist/keyboardist James Stafford from Leicester’s very own alternative rock band Kids In Cars. Leicester does have a music scene.
Opening track 'Sharks' sets the mood and standard for the rest of the album. Reverberated riffs and an elevated chorus make for an inaugural impact early on. The vocals are not the best in the world, but they're enjoyable and fit the music. Electronics have been taken care of by James, who has introduced a glitch, downtempo vibe on the Dark Dark Horse sound. Sharks has some interesting sounds and the synthesizers are a real key, acting as harmonies as the vocal layers have no real effect on the overall sound. The bass sounds great, as do the several keyboard riffs and electric guitar approaches. The next track 'Ethics' has a relaxed atmosphere and beautiful instrumentation and equally as good lyricism. Minutes pass as reverse reverb guitars create a dreamy atmosphere made for dark winter nights. James Stafford's piano work is monumental on this track, with the beats and synthesizers entering and fading away at precisely the right times. The final minute is vengeful and has a rapid electronic beat and eerie keyboard riff.
'In A Lifetime Before' has a pacy electronic drum beat which adds to the piano arpeggio which is fantastic. The lengthy post-rock undertones are present as the glitch music takes the backdrop. Twinkling guitars and enigmatic synth strings complete the sound with warming vocals. 'Spit Out Regret' is a step in the right direction, with another piano arpeggio and a beat which springs to mind The Postal Service. Think Owl City without the bullshit. Don’t let that cloud your judgement, because Dark Dark Horse is a work of beauty and intelligence. 'Southwest of Orion' continues the layered electric guitar and flicks of the reverse reverb pedal. Soundscapes force their way into the fray, with vigorous distortion and xylophone sweetness in unison. The most electronic track is the abrasive synthesizer smasher 'The Sound of Muscles That Have Frozen Closed'. Layers upon layers of synthesizer and electronic drums fly through the track in a well-produced, well-structured three minute track.
I'm actually lucky enough to 'accidentally' see Dark Dark Horse live, twice. The duo make use of a touring guitarist and drummer to complete their live sound. It's as magnificent as it is on record, with stand-out eeriness which recorded music cannot represent. 'Midnight Mass' continues the eclectic instrumentation with acoustic guitars, synthesizers and odd percussion instruments making an appearance. The track is not as powerful as some of the others, but the acoustic nature and brilliant vocal match up for one of the best musical moments on Centuries. Two minutes of 'Two Gestures' is not enough. The Twilight Sad-esque synthesizer riff is heavy and loud, and the spacious drum riff creates a vivid atmosphere, ending suddenly with little remembrance on the previous two minutes. Nonetheless, this electronica instrumentation is inspiring.
'Mercury Nevada' is the final product of Centuries. The accumulated guitar swooshes’ and piano arpeggios come together for an eight minute masterpiece of lo-fi vocals and swirling soundscapes. Mercury Nevada is split in to two, the first half being an eerie piece of piano genius, among the glorious synthesizers and empty vocals. The second half is pure synth pop, layered with a simplistic drum beat / hand clapping and an effective, understandable vocal. The piano increases and an extra layer of reverberation ignite the final few minutes of neo-classical soundscapes and impeccable rhythm.
Dark Dark Horse is not a finished product, not by a long way. Centuries was released on Japanese label Rallye, meaning their music is yet to reach its full European capacity. There just isn’t a market for Dark Dark Horse in the UK. They have separated themselves from a mass number of electronica artists who have entered the indie circuit in their droves over the last decade, fortunately Dark Dark Horse have the influences and previous musical experience to step further and further away from this scene. They won't be making millions and they won't achieve worldwide success, but they have respect from their peers in Leicestershire and the confidence of Centuries, and many brilliant live performances to take the next step.