Genres are funny. Often, they describe a sound in merely euphemistic terms, as it seems the artists or bands are mostly just trying to brand something highly derivative as something much more distinct (Beach Goth and Soundcloud Rap are contemporary examples). Other times, the verbiage for a genre is so specific or nuanced that one ends up with a vague or confused idea of what the music might actually sound like (who’s your favorite Post-Internet Indielectual Band?).
In the case of Baltimore-based trans-apocalyptic galaxy rock duo Darsombra, the genre the band ascribes to its music is both accurate and limiting. Brian Danilowski plays guitar and Ann Everton plays synth; Darsombra’s music is rich and expansive, often deploying dark, heavy riffs over moody drones. The music’s ambience can sound earthy and interstellar, sometimes simultaneously, bringing to mind stratified visuals, like a layered abstract painting of neutral browns and greens topped with Dayglo and other colors from a more psychedelic palette. But while Darsombra’s brand of trans-apocalyptic galaxy rock is sonically complex, it’s created to be visually so, as well.
Aside from her synth duties, Everton is Darsombra’s video artist. Tasked with drenching the duo in a rainbow of colors and an array of abstract (sometimes silly) animations as they tear through their sweeping arrangements, Everton’s efforts work symbiotically with Darsombra’s music. That symbiosis is at play in the video the band created for “From Insects … to Aliens (Worms Turn),” a track from their 2016 release Polyvision. Shot while on tour in 2017, the video intersperses live performance footage with images of pristine vistas, insects and various fungi all captured on the road. A dark landscape intermittently lit up by lightning serves as the backdrop while the duo’s 21-minute-plus track unspools—somber synth drones give way to ferocious doom metalesque riffs—and colorful skulls spin through the composition.
“The music always inspires the visuals. The visuals are composed to the music,” says Everton of her creative process. “It’s like the opposite of a soundtrack—a visual-track? I imagine one day we might do soundtrack work for a video I make, but I love the creative exercise of composing video.”
Everton and Danilowski joined forces more than 10 years ago in Baltimore, where they still live today when they aren’t on the road. Though she grew up singing in her church and playing violin, Everton says she shunned performing music for a time, before getting inspired by a lesson in North Indian Classical Music she received from a friend in exchange for a haircut. “I began to appreciate my voice as the powerful muscle it’s capable of being, and the powerful effect it’s capable of enacting,” she said of the experience.
Everton and Danilowski initially found their musical interests intersected at critical points, from prog and glam rock to ’70s and ’80s metal like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Beyond popular music, Everton and Danilowski were both heavily influenced by Zuhl, a highly conceptual music, often performed in made-up languages and exemplified by artists like the French band Magma. Those mutual influences, as well as a foundation built on intentional experimentation, are evident from Darsombra’s earliest releases, such as 2006’s Ecdysis and 2007’s Delirium & Death.
Up until Polyvision, Danilowski, a self-taught musician whose guitar work is foundational and dynamic to the band’s sound, was the sole composer and performer of Darsombra’s music. Everton, who took up synth only after three years creating the band’s visuals, plays for the first time on Polyvision.
“Playing the synth came relatively easily to me because I’ve always been able to plunk out a tune by ear,” Everton says. “I’ve always believed I could play anything as long as I’ve practiced enough, and it’s deceptively easy to make a synth sound good.”
Released through micro-labels Translation Loss and Sonic Meditations, Polyvision—which followed releases At a Loss, Public Guilt and Exile on Mainstream—expands on the signature sound of Darsombra’s mind-melded duo, with Danilowski’s circuitous riffs over Everton’s atmospheric synth. After touring the album throughout 2017, the band took a five-month hiatus, retreating to their forest-adjacent Maryland shack, which they lovingly call The Refuge, The Grape Escape or Ann’s House of Nuts. They’re eager to get back on the road, where Everton says they’ve found a life that suits them.
“We both really enjoy being on the road, especially now that we know all about truck-stop showers, cooking anything and everything in a rice cooker, and how to easily find hot springs, swimming holes and free overnight parking. [Laughs.]”
As they blow across the U.S. (and into Northeast Florida for an audio-visual performance at Five Points’ Sun-Ray Cinema), they’ll be collecting images and inspiration for future releases, all while expanding the definition of trans-apocalyptic galaxy rock.