“Dark Age” by Mothlite is a fascinating exercise in widening musical horizons, its mix of electronica, modern rhythms and ‘80s influences combining to produce a subtle, multi-layered album. This is the band’s second album, following 2008’s “The Flax Of Reverie”, and is once again the product of collaboration between English composer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan (Sun O))) and Ulver) and Norwegian producer Knut Jonas Sellevold (King Knut and Elektrofant), along with guest musicians including Kristoffer Rygg of Ulver. It’s clearly an album on which all concerned are exploring, assembling each of their various influences into an individual and engaging sound.
At times the ‘80s influences are obvious, at other times it’s the modern that dominates. Before you move along with all this talk of ‘80s music, assuming there’s nothing to see here, you should consider that it references some of the most interesting bands from that decade – Talk Talk, Japan, Cocteau Twins, Tears For Fears – who were all, in their own way, experimental and progressive (by which I mean they pushed the boundaries of their own particular musical genres, and generally stood out from their contemporaries).
There’s something slightly dark about the music of Mothlite, a bit edgy, always atmospheric, with decidedly modern production values and some really quite wonderful arrangements.
A song like “Something In The Sky”, for example, has a Tears For Fears-like chorus and could have been written in 1985; but it’s also obvious to modern ears that it’s a product of 2012. One might liken its sound in some ways to Depeche Mode at their most dramatic and expansive, almost ethereal in its melodies and arrangement. The combination of the best of two distinct decades is one of the real strengths of this album.
“Dark Age” (the song) begins with a typically electropop – almost harsh – percussive theme, which it proceeds to combine with an uplifting, euphoric chorus by way of some clever song writing.
What you have to be prepared for is the electronic nature of “Dark Age”’s 11 songs; it’s dense, a haunting soundscape that has little truck with the mores of guitar-driven rock music. There are complexities in its composition, the time signatures in songs such as “Milk” demand serious concentration, and the emotions it evokes are many and various. Each subsequent listen will reveal something new, hidden in the mix of each song.
“Dark Age” is an album that should be listened to properly, not put on as an accompaniment to some other activity. Instead, pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink and just listen: there are musical worlds in here, many of them really quite beautiful.