Posted on October 15th, 2013 (8:15 am) by Nick Manai

In a recent interview, Nicolas Jaar, electro-wunderkind, had this to say about what motivated him to make the music that comprises Darkside's new release Psychic, "I said to myself, 'I'm just going to go and make a [expletive] rock-and-roll record because it fits right now where I am.' It was a huge motivation." Well, kind-of. If you are not familiar with the minimalistic excellence of Nicolas Jaar's 2011 release Space Is Only Noise or Darkside's debut experimental EP and their subsequent reimagining of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories titled Random Access Memories Memories, for which they briefly renamed themselves Daftside, let's get one thing straight. This is not an [expletive] rock and roll record. But once you have soothed yourself in the morphine drip of Space or been sufficiently concerned over their version of "Contact," Jaar's comments begin to ring true. This is the only rock and roll record he would have wanted to make.

But to say this is his first rock record betrays a lot of the accessibility that revealed itself to those who took Space seriously. It also betrays all of the experimental happenings that makes Psychic serious music for people deeply invested in figuring out what they are listening to. It's not always going to be easy, this is high minded art, but there are also moments which reveal themselves to be the most natural possible, something you might hum along to. Or to put it another way Psychic, like anything Nicolas Jaar has yet released, falls underneath the umbrella of the classic cliche that it defies categorization. But if that sounds trite to you, go ahead and try to define it, you'll be leaving something out I guarantee it. Their is covered-up minimalism, dark-sketchy beats, sighing cellos, gravitationally pulling bass, actually a fair amount of guitars, and the way it all fits together, well, I don't know.

Darkside is not just Nicolas Jaar and to overlook that would be a huge mistake. The other half is Dave Harrington an accomplished bass player Jaar met through Brown University connections (Jaar went there as well), and who Jaar reportedly told to bring his guitar to instead of his bass to their first collaboration. Judging by the differences that separate Jaar's solo work and Darkside, it would seem right to say that Harrington brings the guitar hooks that make Darkside slightly more funky. But then there is that rock and roll quote and this one from the same interview, "Dave has experimental tastes, whereas my taste is more mainstream. We fit like a little puzzle. You can hear how we complete each other." Well, one thing is for certain, they do compliment each other incredibly well as Darkside. You can hear their give and take on album opener "Golden Arrow" where space tinged synthsizers circle dark pulsing beats until it drops into something more disco flavored and guitar driven.

The landscapes here are certainly otherworldly, the sonic textures recall craters on the moon rather than the sounds of rushing water that sometimes merged into textures on Space Is Only Noise. But a crucial distinction should be made that Psychic never drifts into anything that could be called truly ambient. "The Only Shrine I've Seen" and "Freak, Go Home" are ripe with experimentalism that is decidedly unnatural, yet tend to drop into a sort of closed groove funk with enough twists and turns to facilitate active listening. But there is also a song like "Paper Trails," which works in the opposite direction. "Paper Trails" opens with a bluesy guitar lick that feels like it could be logically complimented by, oh, I don't know, Pharrell Williams let's say. But then, instead, Jaar's deep baritone comes bopping in behind the bass driven beat and the pop we thought we're hearing sounds more challenging and unnatural all through is intonation. "I want a house to live in / Baby to take care of," he sings, but we have the distinct feeling that what he is singing about is not entirely sincere, as though it were sarcasm. But it is gorgeous, brilliant sarcasm.

Their is not a lot of human connection on Psychic. I mean the album is named Psychic. You might not ever come up with a favorite song and you might never remember one lyric from it. But give it a chance and it will enter you through another root. It will wiggle its way in through osmosis or transference or whatever and if its not stuck in your head it will be suck someplace else for a while, like maybe your brain.

Track List:
1. Golden Arrow
2. Sitra
3. Heart
4. Paper Trails
5. The Only Shrine I've Seen
6. Freak, Go Home
7. Greek Light
8. Metatron

Darkside: Psychic
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

88 / 100
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