Album Review: Dark Matter // CamelPhat

Dark Matter is the illuminating debut album by Liverpool’s CamelPhat.

For a dance band to release their debut long-player after grafting away for 15 years, constantly creating and releasing music, this seems unusual in the extreme. Then again, Liverpool based DJs-cum-producers Dave Whelan and Mike Di Scala, aka ‘CamelPhat’, rarely play the conventional game. Releasing dozens of singles, EPs and remixes over the past decade-and-a-half, their formative years have been spent under several different guises including standard surname taxonomy, finally finding a moniker they were happy with half-a-dozen years into their partnership. Even then, the duo continued shunning the limelight, particularly when playing live, taking to wearing masks to preserve anonymity, letting their music do the talking.  

Everything changed three years ago when ‘Cola’, their collaboration with ‘Elderbrook’, hit paydirt, an international hit that went platinum in the UK and received a Grammy nomination while topping the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart for good measure. Cue a stampede from some of the biggest names in music, jostling to collaborate on the next crop of CamelPhat singles — including, most recently, Noel Gallagher. The Mancunian could perhaps be forgiven for his keenness to get a tick in the cool column, his discarnate vocal on ‘Not Over Yet’ slotting in nicely with the record’s largely anonymized chillout groove, a veritable revolving door of different performers coming and going without a backward glance.

Jake Bugg, Foals, Ali Love and more besides have given their time since ‘Cola’ and it’s no surprise the foundations of ‘Dark Matter’ – out on 30 October on RCA UK Records – are forged from this fine collection of singles. No fewer than 8 of the 18 tracks have enjoyed a prior release, starting with their aforementioned Middle-Eastern-tinged breakthrough from 2017. The suave odyssey of ‘Panic Room’, featuring sultry Au/Ra serves up a welcome dose of ethereal Mediterranean house whilst closer ‘Breathe’, echoes the vibe of ‘Pacific State’. Jem Cooke, also appearing in the transcendent ‘Rabbit Hole’, then propels things forward with her persuasive yearnings.      

With everyone hunkering down for an uncertain Winter, this collection of aural Vitamin D will surely sustain fans during the darkness, everyone crossing fingers and toes that ‘Phat’s ambitious 2021 tour dates get the green light next spring. Finally, something to look forward to.  

Words by Michael Price


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