Dark Star Safari «Walk Through Lightly» Release Concert

darkstarsafariDark Star Safari is a musical entity comprised of Jan Bang, Erik Honoré, Eivind Aarset, Samuel Rohrer and John Derek Bishop. Their second full-length offering Walk Through Lightly is the first to feature all five musicians together in the studio from the outset, making for a more organic refinement upon their already established methodology: gradually sculpting distinct songs out of collective improvisations, or using the raw material from initial recordings as the basis for more carefully articulated compositions. The final mix is one that invites few stylistic comparisons to other musical peers, and in fact few comparisons to existing genres. Though this second offering from the project is frosted over with a Scandinavian sense of spatiality and melancholy, it’s best listened to without considering any origin points, geographic or otherwise: from the opening moments of “Walk Through Lightly,” listeners will feel as if teleported directly into the middle of an enigmatic film-in-progress.

The album opener immediately and successfully sets the table for what is to follow. The electronic and acoustic instrumentation is pensive, but not passive, with restrained scrapes and stridulations in the background combining with backwards-looped passages and perlescent or granulated sound effects to better emphasize the carefully arranged latticework of guitar, percussion, strings, and bass. In some places, such as on “Father’s Day” and “Measured Response,” the silences or breaths between passages are pronounced enough to be an instrument in their own right (and an elegant confirmation of the fact that silence is also a conveyor of information). This nuanced production, which wisely opts for intimacy instead of relying on overdone "instant atmosphere generators" like lengthy reverb, provides just enough tension to contrast with the sense of elevation provided by Bang’s vocal contributions: smoky, evanescent, and impressionistic recitations offering not snapshots of specific events, but rather complete emotional environments for the listener to hover through and explore.

Within these environments, the lyrical imagery focuses upon coming to grips with sudden transformations on both micro and macro levels (the opening “this was a perfect place / till we lost our way” from “Patria” or the foreboding “Poems that explore / Their silence / Crush their violence / Now their time ends” from “Measured Response.”) It focuses as well upon coming to thresholds or crossings, be they physical crossroads or internal states of mind, or both (see especially the striking turns of phrase from “Murmuration.”) With such things in mind, it’s only natural that there would be consideration of dreaming as well, and indeed four different titles on the LP make different reference to a dream or dream state, seemingly valuing dreams as part of the continuum of consciousness rather than something totally cut off from waking experience.

Given the sense of foreboding, anticipation, and even unease that these kinds of subjects often bring with them, the spare and un-hurried music is all the more intriguing, especially when the eponymous finale arrives and the percolating sound bed seems to hint at a coming resolution, but then leaves the listener with more questions than answers. By competently fusing a mature, economical approach to sincerely romantic lyrical themes, Walk Through Lightly is a rare accomplishment.

Text: Thomas Bey William Bailey