Hoping to capitalise on the praise heaped upon their static-filled remix of Daft Punk’s comeback album, New York minimalist Nicolas Jaar and Brooklyn multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington now release their first full-length studio effort, Psychic, under the guise of Darkside.
Opening with “Golden Arrow,” a meandering eleven-minute instrumental filled with crackling synths, languid beats and ambient drones, the follow-up to the former Brown University graduates’ 2011 self-titled E.P. doesn’t initially appear to have much in common with their mischievous reworking of Random Access Memories. But work your way past the patience-testing beginning, and Psychic contains an unexpected playfulness more in keeping with their summer side-project. This is found most notably on “Freak, Go Home,” a schizophrenic blend of distant ghostly melodies and clattering funk which then morphs into a squalling wall of industrial noise, and “The Only Shrine I’ve Seen” which combines Prince-esque guitar licks with slow-motion handclaps, wind chimes and disembodied vocals.
Renowned as the king of digital minimalism, Jaar’s subtly textured production justifies his innovative reputation, while his surprisingly deep baritone lends the spooky psychedelia of “Greek Light” and the cosmic blues of closer “Metatron” both a sense of gravitas and an intriguing Lynchian quality.
But it’s the guitar skills of regular touring partner Harrington which set Darkside apart from the rest of their chin-stroking peers, whether it’s channelling the creeping prog-rock of Pink Floyd at their 70s peak on “Heart,” or aping the echo-drenched heartbreak of Chris Isaak amongst the finger-clicks and lolloping synths of album highlight “Paper Trails.”
Of course, Jaar’s “it’s the closest thing to rock ‘n’ roll I’ve done” claims are slightly misleading, but Darkside’s complex sonic explorations still ensure that Psychic is for the most part an unconventional and yet strangely arresting listen.