PSYCHIC (Other People /Matador)
Once an enticing side project with an EP to its name, DARKSIDE has now become a fully-formed collaboration between po-faced beat wunderkind Nicolas Jaar and his one-time session guitarist Dave Harrington, with additional high-profile backing from Matador Records. The integration of something as traditional as a reverb-sodden guitar line may, on the surface, seem like scant experimentation from Jaar, an individual who has already become burdened with the tag of bona fide modern-day innovator. In fact, it’s the opposite.
The integration of a second member into what feels much like a follow-up to 2011’s superlative touchstone Space Is Only Noise is done subtly and expertly, meaning that without tearing up his own blueprint, Jaar has birthed something that still sounds like nothing else you’ve ever heard – not even Nicolas Jaar. Opener Golden Arrow is a flawless, 11-minute statement of intent, Harrington’s slippery, palm-muted arpeggios draped across Jaar’s shuffling, emotive beat, tumbling bottom end and molten, heavily effected vocals. A microcosm of the album, its seamless segueing from suite to suite, from understated to engulfing, indicates a genuine mastery of this mode of production.
It’s easy to focus on Jaar, the prodigious talent that he is, but Harrington’s role within DARKSIDE is not one of afterthought. His delicate timbres add a looseness to proceedings, an invigorating spontaneity absent, by its nature, from pretty much all electronic music. On the likes of the excellent Heart, Harrington carries the track, providing an enticing, sonorous levity where Jaar’s vocals can’t. And best of all, it sounds interesting. The bluesy progressions themselves may be fairly conventional, but the relation of his playing to the context renders it outstanding. That said, album peak Freak Go Home is the Jaar show; a slab of forward-motion melancholy, where creaking swathes of melody course along a tumbling, propulsive cadence, as laser shards are sporadically cast skywards, hi-hats dipping in and out at will.
If this is to be considered the second Nicolas Jaar album, then it’s a more than worthy follow-up. If we’re to truly think of this as a new band, then Psychic is a debut album of startling assurance.
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Words: Geraint Davies