how dark the horse

is a musical project from a man and a machine. purpose-built like railway tracks and an iron horse. to create motion and explore and connect. it’s a collection of questions and struggles and triumphs. a journey churning towards the next station.


Noises and voices. Found sounds. The illustrious hum of heaven and the drone of earth. Electronic and acoustic. All of these are collected by how dark the horse and crafted into a completely original listening experience.

Led by solo musician and Minneapolis-native Cole Johnson, how dark the horse succeeds at combining ethereal noise and orchestral influence with modern beats and electronic allure. With influences ranging from Son Lux to Sigur Ros, how dark the horse can’t be packaged into neat and tidy categories. His music tells the story of the human experience: the joys and sorrows, disappointments and victories, and perhaps most of all, the reality of hope in the middle of life’s often-bleak landscape.

Having grown up in a musically talentless family in snowy Minnesota, Johnson was uniquely tuned in to the beats and sounds of the 90’s. “I wake every morning with a song in my head,” he explains. “Sometimes it’s annoying and sometimes a blessing.” He picked up a guitar in those college years when every guy who wants to pick up a girl should play guitar. This led him into the days of church music, which was foundational to his experience, allowing him to experiment with progressions and melodies as well as technology and other instruments. “I wrote and recorded music for many years in my early 20s, but it wasn’t worth promoting. I knew I just needed time and fine tuning.” Five years later, he remixed the title song from MuteMath’s Odd Soul album to take third place in the band’s remix competition.

Following that, how dark the horse was born and a three-part song, the city burns but lights the sky for rebuilding, was released into the SoundCloud community, garnering hundreds of plays from a growing fan base. In 2011, departures eased its way out, blending atmospheric guitar and piano riffs with electronic vocals, bass and beats. “I prefer to use dynamics to tell a story, and will sing when necessary,” Cole adds regarding his voice-synth melodies. In 2013, he remixed the hit song You and Me from pop-duo Aaron + Aaron, pumping in some orchestral and synth variations with some dub-step flair.

A promising year ahead, how dark the horse is releasing another EP, dry bones, and is experimenting with scoring for film and television.

musical influences
sigur ros. mutemath. sleeping at last. son luxjames blakeexplosions in the sky. bon iver.