Usually, the average debut album stands as something of an advertisement. Most are by design, a smorgasbord of artistic spattering’s, consciously curated and collected in hopes one’s finesse will serve to lend the listener compelling perspectives and maybe, just maybe a glimpse of what is yet to come. Ironic then that Liverpool-native duo Camelphat’s first attempt, the incredibly outspoken ‘Dark Matter’, didn’t seem to get the memo. Equally about celebrating achievements past as it is a generous 21-track-strong proof of concept of the successes still yet to come and an ‘all killer, no filler’ track listing that has origins established as far back as mid-2017 with number one anthem ‘Cola’, it’s an LP that’s reputation already well and truly precedes it.
And whilst you could deduct points for it being a greatest hits collection of sorts, to do so would be in itself an admission of just how undeniably impactful each of the offerings on ‘Dark Matter’ have become – not just on the careers of both pilots Dave Whelan and Mike Di Scala but modern dance culture itself. With the trademark saw-wave basses, white noise effects and unforgettable vocals revisited in heavyweights such as 2018’s unforgettable ‘Panic Room’ and follow-up ‘Breathe’ to 2019’s contemplative ‘Be Someone’ and beyond, it’s an incredibly meticulous folio of unique combinations reflective of a decorated discography and career reaching back to 2004 only made possible by year upon year in the making.
But to say that Camelphat are simply content to rest on their laurels though would be disingenuous and utterly reductive of the massive amount of work that so evidently went into such a varied and dynamic first foray. Here, the two pioneers of a project credited in bringing everything from melodic house to European dark-room styles to the commercial space prove lightning can strike more than once by not only refreshing (or daresay refining) passed hits with album-exclusive ‘Dark Matter’ re-works, but also introducing us to whole new avenues of their production ability with an abundance of brand-new compositions.
Standouts like ‘Spektrum’ introduce us to new-found syncopation and bass-centric arrangements as does the thematically balladlike ‘Easier’ to more melancholic and emotionally mature themes. ‘Dance With My Ghost’ dons a playful tribal-ness whilst welcoming the return of the unmistakably distinct vocals of long-time collaborator Elderbrook before the gargantuan energy of the recently released ‘Witching Hour’ dives into pure self-indulgence with heavy themes of techno, all of which sharing a common festival-centric aptitude enough to make even the most deprived late-night drivers and living-room ravers amongst us giddy in anticipation.
Duplicitous in its delivery, ‘Dark Matter’ would be almost romantic if not so simultaneously practical in its bookmarking of an era. An abundance of contributions here helped both landscape and soundtrack the latter half of electronic music in the 2010s and as a result, fill the air with sentiment usually reserved for the last page of a dramatic novel. But in teasing the possibilities of just as many newfound sonic prospects, it’s a body of work that asserts optimism. A triumph stood one leg in the past and one leg in the future, ‘Dark Matter’ is not only a gold standard succession of electronica but 2020’s strongest dance album and ultimately most deserving final chapter.