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DigitonalSave Your Light For Darker Day
Several years in the making and off the back of some fairly constant gigging, Save Your Light For Darker Days is no radical departure for Digitonal, the group headed up by producer Andrew Dobson. Earlier records for the likes of Toytronic and Seed laid a solid foundation of electronica backbone (easy on the DSP) layered mostly with lush, cinematic strings, and this led to appearances on the festival circuit, including the likes of the Big Chill and Glade. And this is music that very much lends itself to a stunning sunset over a large open space, beautiful countryside, lakes… it’s quintessentially English electronic music, heavy on the soundtrack element, nodding (not vigorously of course) to a slew of classical composers. This is about as expressive and melancholy an album as you’re likely to hear this year. Sure, the beats aren’t hectic, there’s no crazy noise, it won’t drive the club wild, it might even make your mum ask what that tune is that’s playing, but that’s because she’s feeling the vibe, it’s making a connection. And it’s that connection which drives Digitonal.
Insanely good musicians all, they dredge up pure spirit from their instruments, whether a vintage synth or an electric violin. The production is crisp and immediate, but reveals densely subtle layers on repeated listens. Dobson picks up his clarinet and swathes it in reverb for 93 Years On, providing one of the album’s bona fide ‘hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck’ moments — violinist Samy Bishai’s strings provide another on Emberkreiss. A Lighter Touch is powered by the sort of crisp drum programming and simple melodies that will inevitably bring Plaid comparisons, not unfairly, but it’s as much about the process as the result — this is no simple laptop construction. Harpist Kat Arney and guitarist Joe Shrewsbury (of much respected post-Kraut electro-rockers 65daysofstatic) add further dynamism throughout the album, but the collision of electronica and live session musicians is always complementary.
Perhaps the ultimate success of this album, then, is in its sense of balance — entirely accessible, but no less highbrow for it, it never smacks of a compromise. Inevitably you can’t please all the people all the time, but Digitonal’s utilitarian approach to this album can’t be faulted and neither can the results.