“Oh, to be an astronaut,” croons sink \ sink frontwoman–and Albany native–Kim Schulke at the end of “Astronavt,” the leadoff track from The Darkest Dark Goes. Though the titular star-climber might make a career out of exploring the blackness of space, Schulke doesn’t. Her voice is sweet and airy like a night fairy swimming through milky constellations. And while her voice retains an earthy element, it’s not quite as dark as dark gets—in fact, the whirling guitar and piano noise that accompanies her creates a bright sound. The darkness on this release from net label Feedback Loop lies in the empty space between those two extremes.
“Astronavt” is only one of nine tracks on the album, but it’s archetypal of the moods sink \ sink captures so vividly. “Wild Eyes” builds on the minimalist arrangements with intermittent blasts of sonic texture like long light-shadows cast by passing streetlamps in a car. So far, we’ve been so enraptured by the nuances that we’ve forgotten about percussion altogether. sink \ sink knows this, of course, so they inject a gust of crunchy drums midway through “Place That I Love” to up the ante. Schulke’s ethereal voice lingers above the chaos long enough to permeate and settle, leaving the listener craving for more.
This formula works, but could easily get stale. So sink \ sink tweaks each subsequent song to beckon different emotions. The paranoid “Gurksy” sludges along for four minutes like a pretty piece of lo-fi shoegaze, while the loud-quiet-loud dynamic of “Mojave” calls to mind the potential desperate mirages of its title location. Schulke’s voice is the constant, but her band’s complex musicianship creates layers of atmospheric support. New Zealand musician Gareth Schott and Bostonian producer Callum Plews lay a pipeline of piano and toothy blankets of fuzz on which Schulke’s voice can radiate.
With its furious upstrokes and deceptively sweet melody, the title track recalls “Welcome to the Machine,” even up to its frantic dump-all-your-toys-on-the-floor ending. It’s mood music, and the best way to experience it is to allow yourself some time to feel out the landscapes. Starting with an innocent daydream about space and ending up back on earth in time to catch the dusk in “Sunset Song,” sink \ sink has managed to capture fragments of the dreamworld and make them comprehensible in the real world—for that, we owe them our thanks.
Review by Patrick Hosken