Personnel: Rose Berlin (vocals); Dean Garcia (guitar, keyboards, drums, programming).
Audio Mixer: Dean Garcia.
Recording information: The Elab, UK.
Dark Matter is the sixth full-length album by SPC ECO, a project centered around former Curve guitarist Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin, with contributions from numerous guest musicians. While the group started out making noisy yet poppy electronic-tinged shoegaze in the vein of Garcia's former band, it abandoned guitars for its 2014 album, The Art of Pop, embracing more of an icy synth pop sound. Dark Matter finds the group morphing further into dark, moody trip-hop, with thick, slithering beats and heavy, echo-covered bass enveloping Berlin's occasionally Auto-Tuned vocals. Her voice inevitably brings to mind Curve's Toni Halliday, but there's a fair bit of '90s-era Elizabeth Fraser in her as well, and plenty of this album (particularly the swirling, intoxicating standout "Let It Be Always") suggests what might have happened if the former Cocteau Twins chanteuse had started a side project with members of Massive Attack following the success of their 1998 classic Mezzanine. Berlin's lyrics live up to the album's title, with subject matter typically concerning loneliness, regret, paranoia, and heartbreak. Tense, creeping ballads such as "Meteor" and "Under My Skin" (which ends with the line "all I fear is dying alone") find Berlin at her most aching and vulnerable, while the trap-influenced beats of "Down Low" prove that trip-hop can successfully be updated for the post-Purity Ring era of downtempo electronic pop music. ~ Paul Simpson