Sunday, 21 September 2014

REVIEW: Dark Horses - 'Hail Lucid State' (Last Gang Records)

 Described as "sonic soul art rockers", the UK five piece Dark Horses follow up last year's debut 'Black Music' with a strengthy second full-length that sees them deliver on their promise in a way their first offering failed to. Venturing into similar territories visited by the likes of Esben And The Witch, Savages and (somewhat surprisingly) the Sneaker Pimps, there are also heavy shades of shoegaze-infused post punk combined with touches of dark psychedelica. 'Hail Lucid State' was produced by Death In Vegas man Richard Fearless, who lends the band's sound a unique edge.

After igniting with the explosive colours and elevating excitement of terrific opener 'Live On Hunger', 'Desire' brings together a drum sound that brings to mind that of Bowie's 'Low', filthy bass notes, a vocal melody that tips its hat to Pink Floyd's 'Arnold Layne', and an expansive burst of melodic light that surges through the chorus. The magnificent single 'Saturn Returns' puts motorik rhythms, shoegazey guitars to immersive vocals and space rock vibes, a journey into orbit that provides a clear stand out. After the powerfully raw post-punk snarl of the striking 'Transister' comes the entrancing slow burner 'Wire Blood', its shadowy, brooding atmospheres topped superbly with the skeletal, piercing guitar that rings eerily throughout. 

After the intense pulse and dark groove of the title track deliver a great representation of the album as a whole, the superb 'Sevens' steps further down the path signposted 'Krautrock', via a route through early Mute Records and the grinding blackness of Joy Division to create another one of the album's finest moments. Built around a strict, snappy rhythm and a transcendental bass hook, the catchy 'Wake Up' dives into gothic space disco during its high reaching chorus, while the mesmeric guitars, hypnotic drones and psychedelic moods of 'The Bravest' equate to a another vibrant highlight, before the heaving roar of the epic, expansive closer 'Western' rounds things off pleasingly.

While their debut LP from last year gave only occasional glimpses of their potential, Dark Horses have developed a more accomplished sound, and a standard of songwriting that has moved them up to a new level. Melodic, dark, atmospheric, and with stellar production from Fearless, it's post-punk psych rock burning with soul and energy. 8/10

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