Following their midsummer re-work of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories under the portmanteau-moniker Daftside, Darkside, consisting of American-Chilean producer Nicolas Jaar and bassist-turned-guitarist Dave Harrington, has translated two years of musical thought into their first full-length album, Psychic.
It can only be properly described as cosmic music for cowboys.
The album is a continuation of the mid-tempo electronic-progressive-rock themes addressed in their self-titled EP back in 2011, but Darkside’s new material aspires to greater heights in an eight–track ballad of interstellar badass-ery.
“Golden Arrow,” the opening track with eleven minutes of slow, staggering suspense is a testament to these ambitions.
Underpinning the grandeur of Psychic is a steady horse-gait pulse, produced by the groovy palm-muted guitar-riffs looped throughout the album. This sturdy repetition, however, isn’t for lack of material; rather, Harrington’s metronomic blues patterns lay the foundation of some fractal geometry, where musical oddities–unexpectedly beautiful, subtle, and/or absurd moments–arise from the repetition of a simple design.
Jaar explains in a recent interview with NPR that he likens the album to a “friendly looking house with a nice door,” where, upon entry, one realizes “that there are some strange things happening inside.”
These strange occurrences arrive in many forms, whether it is the duo’s offhand vocal outbursts or impulsive guitar licks (like those sprinkled all over “Paper Trails”) or dreamy interludes interrupted by cosmic radiation. But it is this disparity that Jaar thrives on; the blending of sounds and images that should not be blended—sometimes resulting in heterogeneous compounds. Add distorted rattles, scraping chimes and static to the mix, and you get Psychic.
Psychic demands to be listened to from front to back: it is an unremitting sci-fi journey with atmospheric transitions book-ending each track. Hurtling full-throttle past astral spheres with engines sputtering in vast isolation… actually, the album has little to do with gun-slinging space-travellers on horseback (an explicit subject isn’t really made clear with Nicolas Jaar’s mumbling vocals). However, it does provide a fresh perspective on traditional styles, which is becoming a rarity in electronic music. It’s worth a listen, regardless of what you’re into.
Article by Justin Kwok