Darkside - Psychic | Album Review | By Volume

I wanna piss on the walls of your house! Against Me! - Black Me Out



Cerebral, deceptive, but sadly not all too memorable.

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Author: on October 9, 2013
Matador / Other People
October 8, 2013

We know Nicolas Jaar, don’t we? We know how Space Is Only Noise was an amazing album where house was depressed with downtempo blues in a way that brought chin-strokers, head-nodders, gun-fingers and house-shufflers into some unified utopia, don’t we know? Yeah, we know about Jaar’s experimental, impressive and perhaps derisive ventures, right? I thought I knew Nicolas Jaar, until Darkside was finally brought back into the light. Jaar’s live shows have dazzled  in recent years, no doubt helped by a thriving chemistry with his touring guitarist and friend Dave Harrington, the other half of the duo that is Darkside. The pair prepared an overhaul of Random Access Memories in its entirety over the duration of two weeks, which turned out to be a vast improvement on the disappointing original. Speaking to DJ Broadcast, Jaar and Harrington talked about their restructuring of the Daft Punk record using words like fun and hilarious. This is where my static presumptions and thoughts about Jaar start to fall apart; those words are simply not what I would use to describe Jaar’s work! On Psychic, Darkside allow the tone of their 2011 EP to spread wings and take flight, attempting to evade any shoebox you might try to stuff them in.

Jaar is a mere twenty-three years old. After recovering from that feeling of seemingly having achieved nothing, you’ll probably note that it would be foolish to write him off against whatever (post-)label you can fit him under. On Space Is Only Noise, bridges were built between moods, as listeners would contemplate and meditate as much as they would move their bodies. With the Darkside material, it’s clear Jaar simply wants an outlet for other possibilities. Enter Harrington, who seems to harmonise with Jaar, acting as a conduit between the group and the listeners by way of blues-tinged guitar. Harrington’s licks and frets actually take the lead on the record, certainly as it eventually hits its stride on “Heart”. Indeed, the plummeting riff chorus is the centre of the song, coaxed in Jaar’s falsetto and other atmospheric condiments for a number more country than electronic. Plucks and strums give “Paper Trails” its bounce too, waltzing with a Jaar’s deep vocals that tell a vivid, picturesque hook. It makes for the most obvious cry for single release, though I wouldn’t be so confident in its ability to stand on its own – Psychic is a beautifully cohesive release that fascinates, yet highlights come so few and far between. I’m not suggesting an album should be filled with singles, it just seems as if Psychic is a fleeting moment of intrigue and astonishment that leaves no trace of a memory, leaving the doubt concerning whether any of the music had actually happened.

Psychic is not a title I really understood until I’d listened a few times. I’d once thought Jaar was all about the care, the meticulousness, the perpetual considerations. The realisation that stands out most on this record is how reactive it is to intuition, going where the feeling takes it, best emphasised by Harrington’s bluesy-string streams of consciousness. The common theme, the feeling present throughout the album actively adheres to the mind. Any scenario where the body starts to sway comes after the music has manipulated the consciousness specifically, akin to the way one would physically resonate with the embrace of a repetitive spiritual mantra. The development of the extensive intro track, “Golden Arrow”, in all its unyielding and unconventional patience, conveys ritualistic connotations, such as that of an initiation into a clairvoyant psyche based on instinct. The blend that nimbly rearranges classical strings and chants into digital patterns is followed by an interlude that subtly serves as a period of reflection. Ritualistic notions continue on “The Only Shrine I’ve Seen”, climaxing early thanks to its conspicuous funky riffs that don’t leave much room for dessert. “Freak, Go Home” is where the mid falters and hesitates, second-guessing itself. Enclosed between sections of discordant, rough samples that unease, the most drastic, dramatic melody is littered with uncharacteristically obfuscated vocal white-noise, the only discernible words amongst the chit-chatter being, “go home”, housing one of the record’s rare, powerful stretches.

As extended interludes go, “Greek Light” isn’t exactly moving, however its soft-spoken vocal loop offers the single moment of clarity, which is quickly washed away by the somewhat over-indulgently wistful “Metatron”. This closes the album posing a few more questions than answers, though that should be of little surprise seeing as exploration often begets more exploration. Jaar and Harrington explore the dynamics between their love of inspirations, classical and rock, folk and ambient, downtempo and house, to piece together a fitting embodiment. Regardless it feels like a beginning more than an ending, and the lack of closure is dimmed by the ideation of further material that could someday manifest between these two. As Jaar showcases a gut-feeling organic aptitude, helped by Harrington’s spontaneity, it’s interesting to note this is probably the most accessible sound from either of the pair, yet doesn’t get people dancing (though it’s a different matter live.) Darkside have proved to be anything but rushed thus far, and the pair have plenty of life ahead of them. Focusing back on this serving, Jaar has passed his dualism trait onto Psychic, the gift and the curse of walking between lines as well as both sides of them, and the duo’s debut arrives gleefully gratifying and tolerantly unfulfilling.

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