Finding a unique sound in the over saturated field of dance music is no mean feat and while some would be content with endlessly rehashing that formula to keep the bookings rolling in the best ones stay true to themselves and their craft, striving to refine their sound and create cutting edge sounds.
Enter Dark Sky, a London-based trio comprised of Carlo Anderson, Matthew Benyayer and Thomas Edwards, a group of friends who call their home city of London their main influence. While relatively new on the scene they are already well known for being on the cutting edge of club centric sonics, their meticulous attention to detail razor sharp production techniques, this has kept their records in the boxes of some of the biggest name DJs over the last 3 years.
The three made their debut in 2010 on Black Acre records with the 'Something To loose' EP, a plate full of neon glowing dubstep, by far the most remarkable feature of that record are intricacies in the drums, micro edits and bubbling percussion. This attention to detail set them apart from the rest and kept them firmly in the sights of the music press and raver alike.
The Black Acre record was swiftly followed up by a release on Pictures Music but the following year they had lost any of the unnecessary decoration and stripped their sound back to pure percussive weaponry for their 'High Rise' release on Blunted Robots.
Skip forward to 2013 and the three are set to make their debut release on Tectonic with perhaps their most stripped back and lethal production to date - Konfunction & Double U. Ahead of the March release date we grabbed a quick interview with Matt and Carlo via Skype.
Before 2008 the three had been involved in various other musical projects. Matt and Tom knew each other from secondary school and had previously been collaborating. Carlo was a mutual friend who was also teaching Logic to students in a London music college.
Matt has been playing drums for a long time in a 'teach yourself kind of way' he says, 'playing around on the keys until something sounds right. I’m really into sampling and writing ideas, bare bones, the skeleton of the tracks…'
How does this enviable pool of talent translate into a productive workflow? Seemingly via email… An idea or 'skeleton' will get started and sent around the group - 'we pick the strong ones and finish them off,’ Matt says, 'then it gets into arguments, productive arguments, you know when you all agree on something that it's as strong as it can be…'
Since their debut release the Dark Sky sound has constantly changed, each one becoming more and more stripped back, letting the intricacies of their drums shine through. 'I agree with that,’ Matt starts off. 'I think it's the experience of playing in clubs and learning what works. Just making the tracks quite functional, going with the less is more philosophy… If you've got, say, 3 or 4 elements in a track that are really strong individually then why add more to it?'. 'Back in the day,' Carlo adds, 'we used to be, like, if there is any space, fill it with something, but now it's a case of allowing the elements to breathe.'
'If you think about it,’ Matt adds, 'when you play a tune in a club environment, that space will have a reverb, so you're thinking about turning down the reverb in the track, and EQing it for a sound system…’ 'It’s a mixture of artistic and technical choices,' Carlo adds. 'The technical, to make the track more powerful when it comes to [being played on] a sound system, and the musical, to allow each element to shine on its own. It's about your vision, what you want to create so we've tried to refine that.’
It is this high level of attention to detail both artistically and technically that has found them alongside some of the finest producers in the Techno scene at the moment on the 50 Weapons imprint. Their two EPs including the gargantuan 'Be myself' sit comfortably alongside the likes of Shed, TRG and Marcel Dettmann – high praise indeed.
Their collective influence cited on their NTS radio profile page is simply - 'London' a direct and intriguing one, far more inspiring than the usual endless lists of 'cool' that some might give. The question is, though, how does a city of millions inform their sound? Aside from the obvious Dubstep and Funky era tracks that were doing the rounds when they first joined forces in 08, there is reference to Jungle and the rich heritage of soundsystem culture throughout their catalogue. But perhaps most interesting are the Calypso-informed rhythms that underpin their tracks.
Matt is quick to answer - 'Actually, yeah, I was busking on the streets of London for about 5 years on buckets, so a lot of those rhythms I try to incorporate in the productions, I was playing with this tap dancer from Guadeloupe who taught me some weird calypso and Latin/Cuban rhythms. Weird ones that are really interesting so I tried to come home and program those beats into the computer. I really enjoyed that. I’d like to get back out doing that again… nothing beats actually tapping out a rhythm rather than trying to program it. You can come up with something really original if you actually tap it out…''So I would play the rhythm out on the street all day, for hours, so it was engrained in my head.‘And then I would come home and try and find percussion sounds that imitated what I wanted and layered them, getting into deep layering and making sure each frequency base is covered to make the track as weighty as possible… because if you're going to make a track out of just percussion then each element has to be really strong. Armour and High Rise were both born out of that era.’
The lead track of their Tectonic release Konfunction has an almost post-punk aesthetic to it – perhaps another subconscious London influence? Carlo laughs. 'It's quite evil. I hear that, it's definitely aggressive, not one you'd listen to at home…’
Confunction/Double U is out on Tectonic on March 18th. Test presses are available through the SHOP now.