By: Dave Cooper
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Released on July 8, 2016 via Red Planet Records
Daisy and The Dark is the moniker for what is essentially a solo project for ex-Mediaeval Baebe, singer/songwriter Sarah Kayte Foster. What Foster’s Daisy and The Dark material shares with Foster’s work within the Mediaeval Baebes is its focus on vocals. Whilst the mediaeval plainsong that typifies the Mediaeval Baebes catalogue may seem to be worlds apart from the intricate electronica of Foster’s new alter ego, in both cases the vocals are centre stage.
The Circus EP is Daisy and The Dark’s fourth release, following a selection of covers (the playfully named Take Cover), Foster’s first single, ‘Waltzing’, and her previous release, the Red Planet EP. The lead (and title) track from Circus actually featured on the Red Planet EP; here, however, it is accompanied by three new songs and a remix.
‘Circus’ itself is quite representative of Daisy and The Dark’s sonic palette – pitched somewhere between Kate Bush and Goldfrapp, its amiable mid-tempo atmospherics adorn a naggingly addictive dreampop number that wastes no time in inserting its memorable chorus into the forgotten corners of your brain. Foster’s vocals coo, swoop and flit, dove-like, between stereo channels; they evoke Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell whilst retaining the purity of tone she demonstrated so effectively within the Mediaeval Baebes. It is plain that her time as part of the Baebes’ ensemble has informed her vocal style.
The three new songs all have strikingly different personalities. The rumbling bass-driven undercurrent that permeates ‘Be Your Blanket’ lends it a darker feel, and Foster’s layers of harmony vocals are pure Kate Bush in their sense of theatre – the closest parallel is perhaps the looser structures of Bush’s Aerial, albeit shot through with the darkness inherent in her conceptual piece, The Ninth Wave. It is nothing less than captivating. ‘F.O.X.’, with its sparse Numan-esque synth lines and pattering electronic percussion is even more eerie; here Foster is more in Alison Goldfrapp territory, her close-miced vocal and the wordless vocalese of the bridges makes for claustrophobic listening.
‘Like Somebody Good’, by contrast, builds a loping rhythm around acoustic guitar and a more conventional band feel. Again, there is an echo of Kate Bush, albeit in this case via the bittersweet, but upbeat feel favoured by acts like Florence + The Machine or Bat For Lashes. After the darkness of the previous two tracks, it does, however, feel more optimistic; much as Foster clearly enjoys the uneasy atmospheres of tracks like ‘Be Your Blanket’ and ‘F.O.X.’, you get the sense that she would be loathe to leave us languishing in the dark.
This sense of Foster’s determination to bring in the light is evidenced further by the closing track. The Jinx Run Away remix of ‘Circus’ slows the tempo of the song slightly, which has the effect of rendering it more spacious and ethereal, before underpinning it with rollicking drum’n’bass and electronic effects. Eminently danceable, it proves that Foster’s heady brew of intimate atmospherics and unfettered imagination can be as at home on the dancefloor as floating out of your stereo in the darkness of the small hours.
The Circus EP is an understated triumph. It’s been intriguing watching Foster’s muse grow in confidence and imagination over the course of Daisy and The Dark’s releases thus far, and this latest EP may well be her most polished and effective release to date. As a harbinger of things to come, it’s especially potent: Foster is currently at work on the first full-length Daisy and The Dark record, and if the Circus EP is anything to go by, it promises to be quite a ride. For now, it’s enough to turn this up, sit back and let Daisy cast her spell.