- 03 Nov 21
INK drops this Friday (November 5).
The late Lyndon Stephens knew immediately that Dark Tropics had something special. Stephens, founder of Belfast record label, Quiet Arch and their first manager, gave the band that early enthusiasm and mentorship that was so dearly needed. Now, Dark Tropics are giving something back. They are dedicating their debut album, INK to the memory and inspiration of Lyndon.
Dark Tropics are vocalist Rio McGuinness-McCay and multi-instrumentalist Gerard Sands. Their album follows the release of a handful of singles throughout 2020 and 2021. The lead single of this bunch was ‘Badlands’ — a jazzy, dark opener to the LP. The band describe themselves as ‘cinematic pop-noir’, and this track in particular would not be out of place on the soundtrack of a Tarantino blood-bath classic — “a razor blade to mark your name into my skin.” The flip-side to ‘Badlands’ is the glossy, ‘Moroccan Sun.’ It has a full-band, ‘60s feel reflecting Sands’s love of soul music from this decade. The guitar licks on the track are the backbone of this joyous, post break-up, healing melody.
Recent single ‘Keep Searching’ is a standout song on the album, kicked off by the quiet crackle of stylus on vinyl. It is hopeful, optimistic folk-pop, embellished by some wonderful strings from Niamh McGowan on violin and Laura McFadden on cello. The woozy ‘Drug’ showcases the range of Rio’s vocals. There seems to be an intriguing back-story to each track, adding to that wide-screen listening experience — “I picked a boy I couldn't marry, we made a mess down in the valley." The mysterious ‘I Remember’ is in the same intriguing vein — "I'll take that kiss to the grave / I did all you said 'til I let that girl in my bed."
‘It’s Later Than You Think’ is melancholy and regretful -=— "The love we shared was a burden / the joy was all in the hurtin.'" Current single, ‘Roses in the Nile’ has a fantastic brass section (led by County Cork’s Dylan Howe) with an inherent honesty and playfulness about it in McGuinness’s delivery.
‘Dreamy’ is what it says on the tin with a bluesy, psychedelic vibe. ‘Don’t Let The Others Know’ has a funky ‘70s bassline, leaving a town and a doomed relationship in the rearview mirror. The final track, ‘Helen’s Bay’ may be originally inspired by a sedate little beach just outside Belfast, however the song feels much grander & heavier than that. It delicately mixes trepidation and lovers’ old wounds — “The fear is in loving you.”
INK was produced and engineered by Orri McBrearty who had a hand in Foy Vance’s wonderful 2013 album, Joy of Nothing. It was recorded in Attica Studios in the heart of County Donegal and the music certainly reflects the drama and wildness of the landscape it was made in. The LP is beautifully and meticulously crafted using an array of talented musicians, with a mellotron even making an appearance. The album’s name is a reference to communicating on paper before the days of this information-heavy, digital age. The music timelessly blends influences spanning the decades from the likes of Portishead and Radiohead to Chet Baker and Bowie.
It is atmospheric, moody and complex with a maturity that goes beyond the realms of a debut release. It tells cinematic tales about the beginnings and ends of intense relationships, yet not too heavy or introspective to weigh everything down at the music’s expense.
Dark Tropics will be launching their debut album on Thursday evening (November 4) in the Black Box, Belfast. Tickets are available here.
Listen: ‘Keep Searching’
INK drops on November 5th via Quiet Arch Records.