Dark Room Notes, who were formed in Galway in 2006, will soon release their second album, the eponymous Dark Room Notes on BBE Music. This is the follow-up to their 2009 debut album We Love You Dark Matter, which contained their highly acclaimed single Love Like Nicotine. Since then, much has happened to Dark Room Notes, the now three-piece electro synth-pop band. They’e supported Kraftwerk, Karl Craig and Robyn and toured the US, UK and Germany. This has seen Dark Room Notes appear at Oxegen, Castlepalooza, Sea Sessions and Electric Picnic. As if that’s not enough, their music featured in the film A Kiss For Jed Wood. It seems Dark Room Notes have come a long way in eight years, from their Galway beginnings. Before I tell you about their forthcoming album Dark Room Notes, I’ll tell you about the group’s background, and how they got to where they are now, in just six years.

Back in Galway in 2006, Dark Room Notes were formed by Ronan Gaughan, Ruairi Ferrie and former drummer Ruira Cavanagh. Then Darragh Shanahan would replace drummer Ruira Cavanagh, while Arran Murphy, would also join the band. Now the Dark Room Notes lineup is Ronan Gaughan, Ruairi Ferrie and Arran Murphy. Their debut concert was in December 2006, in their hometown of Galway. Having make their live debut, the next step for Dark Room Notes would be to release their debut single.

A year later, in June 2007, Dark Room Notes would release their debut single, Love Like Nicotine on Gonzo Records, which became an indie hit on radio. Next for Dark Room Notes was the release of the Dead Start Program EP, which featured the single Slow Puncture and Shake Shake My Ceiling. It was Shake Shake My Ceiling that would feature in the film A Kiss For Jed Wood. Then when the band were chosen to feature on the sixth series of RTE’s Other Voices TV program, they won the Viewers’ Choice poll. This was another step in the development of Dark Room Notes career, but the next step would lead to bigger and even better things for them, with the release of their debut album.

Recording of Dark Room Notes’ debut album We Love You Dark Matter took place during summer 2008, with Ciaran Bradshaw producing the album. On the release of We Love You Dark Matter it was critically acclaimed, with the band heading off on a major tour to promote the album. This saw Dark Room Notes playing in Ireland and at a variety of the major summer festivals. Then came their big break, when BBE Music signed the band in autumn 2008. BBE Music rereleased Love Like Nicotine as a single, then We Love You Dark Matter worldwide in April 2010. However, 2010 would prove to be an album of ups, interspersed with the occasional down.

2010 started well, with Dark Room Notes’ debut album We Love You Dark Matter winning the 2009 Choice Music Prize, the Irish Album of the Year. Then in March 2010, Dark Room Notes headed to North America to play two prestigious music festivals. First stop was Toronto and the CMW music festival, then SXSW in Austin, Texas. However, just when things were going well for the band, Dark Room Notes lost another drummer, when Darragh Shanahan left the band. This left the band a three piece, with the lineup now Ronan Gaughan, Ruairi Ferrie and Arran Murphy. Instead of replacing their drummer, the group decided to continue with a drum machine. After the shock of their drummer’s departure, Dark Room Notes continued from strength to strength, with new projects underway in 2011.

In April 2011, BBE Music decided to release Dark Room Notes’ 2007 Dead Start Program EP. The next month, November, they performed what was a specially commissioned soundtrack to The Lost World, a 1925 silent film, which was an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 book The Lost World. This had been composed by the group, with the performance taking place in Sligo, at The Model. During this period, Dark Room Notes had been recording what would become their second album Dark Room Notes.

Before the release of Dark Room Notes’ second album, the eponymous titled Dark Room Notes, they released the first single from the album. This was Baby Don’t Hurt Me No More in 5 March 2012. Dark Room Notes will then be released on 14 April 2012 on BBE Music. On Dark Room Notes are eight tracks, including the single Baby Don’t Hurt Me No More, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening Dark Room Notes is Wallop Waves, which opens with a thunderous combination of synths and drums, before a wash of synths accompany the vocal. The sound is powerful, dark and moody, with the vocal reminding me of Barney’s from New Order. This New Order comparison grows, as the song progresses. Behind the vocal sits a crystalline, elegant sound that emerges from the depths of the arrangement, providing a total contrast. Later, as the vocal breaks down, a myriad of sound effects including birdsong enters. Then, just as you least expect it, drums pound and join forces with the synths. They drive the track along to its powerful and energetic conclusion, leading you to think that in the year New Order reform, a new challenger to the old order may come in the shape of Dark Room Notes. If the rest of the album is as good as this track, then this could be the case.

Stabs of buzzing synths open We Got Love, which is a slightly quicker track, one with a ponderous, thoughtful sound. When the vocal enters, it too has a similar quality. Then, when the drums enter, a myriad of synths combine to produce a brighter sound, matched by the hope in the backing vocals. Meanwhile, the lead vocal is a mixture of power, emotion and hope, as they deliver some well written, thoughtful vocals. You can’t fault the passion and emotion in the vocal, while the backing vocals reflect this hope and have a crystalline quality, that reminds me of Liz Fraser or even Annie Barker. When all this is combined, the result is an impassioned and emotive slice of quality electro pop.

Baby Don’t Hurt Me No More was released as a single in early March 2012, and when you hear the track you’ll soon realize why. This is one of the highlights of Dark Room Notes. With a combination of synths and pounding drums the track opens, before giving way to a combination of a gorgeous, ethereal female and louder male vocal. Taken together, they sound a bit like New Order, more so with the wash of synths and drums that accompany them. If you shut your eyes, you think its Barney and Gillian from New Order. All that’s missing is Hooky’s trademark bass. However,  

Dark Room Notes have two aces up their sleeve. These are the guitars that enter. They’re quick, chiming brightly, while drums pound and synths are key to the track’s success. Add to this the vocal, which is atmospheric, before bright synths replace it and a distant vocal augments the lead vocal. The result is a glorious, quite joyful sounding track, one of the album’s highlights.

An Alignment Part I opens with an echoey spoken word introduction, giving the track a space-age, sci-fi sound. Then synths and drums gives way to more shimmering synths, with the earlier space-age sound, becoming slightly foreboding until the vocals enter. Again, the male lead is accompanied by that sweet sounding female vocal. Gradually, the track starts to unfold, with the track losing some of its earlier foreboding sound. Synths and drum machines are key to an arrangement that then reveals several hooks. Although the track is quite unlike the previous track, it’s still got one thing in common…quality.

After An Alignment Part I comes An Alignment Part II, a track that opens with punchy drums and a male vocal. The vocal has the same quality as previous tracks, accompanied by booming punchy drums, backing vocals and washes of synths. As the track progresses, layer upon layer of the arrangement reveals itself. Quickly, the track grows in power, synths reverberating, while searing guitars join the mix, adding another layer of music. This also provides a contrast, while layers of synths, unravel gradually, as the track reaches a crescendo of powerful and uplifting music. It pounds and flows, with the vocals rejoining, but dominated by this wall of powerful, dramatic music. 

Jumpstart (I Just Want Your Love) has an understated introduction before revealing a softer, more melodic sound. Similarly, the vocal is delivered in a softer, more tender style. At the end of each line, the vocal is answered by another male vocal. It’s then that the combination of synths, drums and backing vocals combines to produce a gentler, softer sound. The lead vocal has a breathy quality, perfect for the lyrics. This is very different to After An Alignment Part I, and in some ways, is the polar opposite. To me, this reveals a different side to Dark Room Notes’ music, one that comes as a very welcome and quite beautiful surprise.

As Melt This High Strangeness opens the wash of synths glide gracefully in, joined by pounding drums and the vocals. From there, the track almost explodes, revealing an anthemic quality. Stabs and flourishes of synth produce a crystalline sound, while the drums fade into the distance, before rejoining. They’re joined by banks of synths, who are responsible for the mainstay of the arrangement, while the drums are punchy. Later, guitars join, producing a powerful solo, soaring high above the arrangement. Here, indie rock meets electro and synth pop, to produce a six minute epic, laden with drama and moments of joy.

Closing the second album by Dark Room Notes’ Dark Room Notes is Pinecone, a track that has a broody, dramatic sound. It’s the quickest track on the album, where buzzing synths, powerful drums and guitars unite, before the vocal joins. It too has a broody sound, while the synths buzz and guitars play a bigger part in the arrangement, cutting in and out of the arrangement. As synths reverberate and muted guitars threaten to reveal their power, you feel the track is ready to almost kick loose at many moment. Will Dark Room Notes close the album with a bang? Eventually, they do kick loose, a fusion of power, drama and emotion, where guitars and synths combine with the impassioned vocals. Then after just under five minutes, the track is over, the group seemingly spent and exhausted after unleashing a dramatic, dynamic and powerful wall of music, where indie rock meets electro. What an impassioned way to close Dark Room Notes, with the group revealing that secretly, they’re partial to a little rock and roll, just don’t tell anyone.

Having enjoyed Dark Room Notes debut album We Love Dark Matter, it seems that Dark Room Notes well on the road to a successful career on Dark Room Notes. The album is crammed full of quality music, with the group fusing electro and synth pop, with even some indie rock thrown into the mix. On several of the tracks on Dark Room Notes, you can hear a real New Order sound shining through. Sometimes this is so strong that you think somehow, you’ve put on a previously unheard New Order album. That’s testament to the quality of the music on Dark Room Notes, that I’m making such a comparison. Dark Room Notes’ decision not to replace their drummer was a brave one, but the album doesn’t suffer for the absence of a drummer. In the right hands, which is the case here, a drum machine works well. The same can be said of the synths. Far too often, in the past thirty odd years I’ve heard synths used badly, but not here. Instead, it’s quite the opposite, with the synths key to the success of the album. Used correctly, like it is here, the results can be stunning. Another thing that I liked about the album, were the vocals, which bring the lyrics to life, combining emotion, joy, passion and thoughtfulness during the eight tracks. Truly, there isn’t a poor track on Dark Room Notes, with the group looking like having a bright and successful future ahead. I’m sure they’ll charm audiences at festivals in the UK and elsewhere during the summer months. By then Dark Room Notes will be in the shops, as it’s released on 14 April 2012 on BBE Music. However, having heard Dark Room Notes I can throughly recommend it to anyone who loves either electro, synth-pop or New Order. Should you be unable to wait until then to hear Dark Room Notes, then you can also check out Dark Room Notes’ debut album We Love Dark Matter. That’ll keep you occupied until the release of Dark Room Notes. Standout Tracks: Wallop Waves, We Got Love, An Alignment Part II and Pinecone.



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