An eclectic musician, Luke Davies (also known as Dark Optics) has a unique take on music. Combining elements of trip-hop, downtempo and instrumental hip-hop, Dark Optics presents self-expression at an experimental level. Over the last two years, the Sheffield-based producer has been working on his album Remember When putting forward the strongest songs and some tracks from early sessions when he was at college. A 12-track production, Remember When is just under an hour of existential music.
Davies describes his music and the most recent album as a way to “incorporate meditative themes or repetition purposefully for those listening to be taken on a journey”; needless to say, he has achieved these aims magnificently in Remember When. Fusing electronic and orchestral instrumentation over unique spoken word, this album is a poignant journey from ‘Where I Am’ to ‘Epilogue’.
Reminiscent of Massive Attack and Portishead, Dark Optics uses diverse instrumentation with spoken word to convey the philosophical concepts of madness and memories. The album begins with ‘Where I Am’ which introduces you to the theme of the record. Well-placed, the narrative of this track demonstrates Dark Optics ability to capture a person’s attention off the cuff.
While my personal musical preference lies outside the realm of Dark Optics, I do enjoy several of the tracks on Remember When. The diverse styles and incorporation of world music, such as in ‘This Desert Life’, intrigues me. The repetitive chanting in the background introduces one to a different culture while maintaining a similar melody to the other songs on the record.
Dark Optics stated that “the main theme for the album is memory – either losing it or remembering certain times in life that bring back positive or negative feelings”. The issue of memory is excellently addressed with spoken word from different characters throughout the album. My favourite would have to be ‘Another Poem’. The emotional depth and introspective nature of the narrative place you in a rather surreal mind frame.
There are some purely instrumental tracks on Remember When along with spoken word. For instance, ‘The Wolf’ has a faster pace as compared to the other tracks. The movement of the sound replicates the feeling of being chased by something. I’m not saying I’ve ever been chased by a wolf, but the way ‘The Wolf’ lifts and dips lead to a rather mesmerising experience.
So, what is my overall opinion of Dark Optics’ third full-length album? As I said, I’m not a fan of lo-fi, trip-hop, electronic or downtempo music; however, Remember When is an impassioned record to meet all listeners needs.