It is entirely unfair to begin a review of this new self-titled Dark Star Safari recording with a reference to David Sylvian. He has nothing to do with the project, and members Jan Bang, Erik Honoré, Eivind Aarset and Samuel Rohrer are all serious, accomplished musicians whose work deserves consideration in its own right.
Still, the reference is unavoidable. Bang, Honoré and Aarset have all worked with Sylvian. And his fans will find a lot to love here, both musically and vocally.
In truth, they’ll wish he was in the mix. Bang’s vocals are beautifully suited to the material, but stylistically he’s borrowed heavily from his friend and collaborator. It’s a distraction I’m struggling to get past, even after numerous listens.
That all said, the quartet has produced a sparkling debut. These are songs rather than pieces; the longest is under six minutes. This relative brevity serves the material well. Where improv sessions sometimes lose focus, these are both detailed and neatly centred.
The 10 songs were produced in two stages. First, a series of improvisations were recorded. Next came a process “where hidden potentials were discovered and nurtured.” The artists describe it as a kind of filling in that allowed the tracks to “be self-actualiz[ed].”
In addition to his vocals, Bang contributes live sampling, samples, ac. piano and dictaphone. Honoré wrote the lyrics and performs synthesizer, samples, synth bass and vocals. Aarset is on guitar, electronics and bass. Rohrer plays drums, percussion, keys, electronics and synths.
The project shares its title with a book by U.S. travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux.