Release Date: Oct 8, 2013
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
Nicolas Jaar would likely take offense with the same old dutiful recitation of his credentials— you know, the Chilean-born, Brown-educated electronic wunderkind, Clown & Sunset label head, serious artiste behind BBC’s Essential Mix of 2012, musical cubes, and a 5-hour MoMA performance in a geodesic dome. In our interview from earlier this year, Jaar wanted to shed his past reputation, and that’s fair enough. Who doesn’t hope to be seen as a different person at 23 than they were at 21? But that's the kind of C.V.
On his debut, Nicolas Jaar believed “space is only noise if you can see,” a discovery he seemed to be working towards at the time. Darkside, his collaboration with touring guitarist Dave Harrington, had similar intent to “walk into the fire” on their 2011 debut EP, but never prevailed to uncover what presided behind the blue flames. Now 23 years old, Jaar realizes that he’s still searching for that vision, attempting to provide a motive for dancing that’s both unconventional and strange, and so he’s struck up the bond with Harrington again.
In their own incongruous way, Psychic's two creators do an admirable job of defining the sound of Darkside's debut LP. While Nicolas Jaar believed he was making an electronic record, Dave Harrington thought he was involved in a rock record. It turns out they were both right-it's an impressive combination of the two. .
As befits a former teenage prodigy, Nicolas Jaar seems to have traversed an electronic producer's entire career arc at warp speed. Since his debut full-length, 2011's Space Is Only Noise, Jaar already seems to have lost interest in making straightforward releases, focusing instead on specially designed prisms, experimental live shows and other such esoterica. That said, the first album from Darkside – technically the duo of Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington – would fit snugly into Jaar's solo discography.
Nicolas Jaar’s 2011 album Space Is Only Noise was a minimal, playfully highbrow work of art with a capital A. Jaar, Brown University graduate and son of renowned artist Alfredo Jaar, is perhaps best known for his solo work, but his collaborations have always been top notch. From songs with kids of celebrities, like Sasha Spielberg and Scout LaRue Willis, to tracks with fellow Brown students, like saxophonist Will Epstein, Jaar has been able to complement his insularity with his more outgoing side.
Nicolas Jaar has every right to be a confident so-and-so. His minimalist method felt - and still feels - like a game-changer, exhibited in debut ‘Space Is Only Noise’, which at the time came off like some grand unveiling of electronic music’s next magic trick. But don’t cosy Jaar with genres. While his craft improves, his ideas spill outwards.
Back in 2011, Nicolas Jaar was about as hyped as a non-commercial producer can get, thanks mainly to a deep and innovative album, ‘Space Is Only Noise’. That hype probably influenced his choice to team up with Dave Harrington and operate under cover as Darkside. The pair’s debut album ‘Psychic’ is chiefly beat-driven, but it’s hardly a dance record: at most, these heavy-lidded meanderings through post-punk, Balearic dippiness and ’80s synth weirditude might pass muster with the very last survivors in a Sunday lunchtime club.
As a project, Darkside answers a question that no one was asking: what would Nicolas Jaar sound like if he hooked up with Eric Clapton? A collaboration between Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington, DARKSIDE's music is interwoven with bluesy, six-string riffing that evokes bands like Dire Straits and Pink Floyd. Frankly, it's a bit of a shock—so much so that many people may simply dismiss Psychic.That would be a mistake. Unlike many Balearic and nu-disco records (which are also touched with noodly guitar work), there is no irony here, no knowing wink to a cheesy past.
Darkside is the work of electro-pop minimalist composer Nicolas Jaar and Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington, which steeps Jaar's spacious solo work with brittle bursts of electronic distortion, watery drums, and slick neon guitar patterns. A self-titled EP in 2011 yielded three lengthy songs of the duo's wild combination of airy atmospheres and menacing fuzz, but debut full-length Psychic moves into more compositional territory, though it remains drifty and narcotic in ways similar to its predecessor. The album kicks off with 11-minute standout track "Golden Arrow," moving like a suite through an intro of dark, fuzzy ambience and wobbling stereo effects into a sleazy, submerged house beat and fragmented synth and string samples.
Nicolas Jaar is usually classified as an electronic musician. But he doesn’t see things that way. “I don’t have any real electronic music influences apart from early [Ricardo] Villalobos,” he once told Interview. “I’ve been very much into instrumental hip-hop, like the Alchemist, DJ Babu, Madlib, J Dilla, ...
Art emerges from collaboration. The first violinist takes a quick breath and firmly nods her head, instantly communicating a musical gesture with the other players in her string quartet. The members of a band interact with one another on stage, realizing their composition in a live setting by simultaneously playing off each other and reacting to the audience’s response.
Darkside is a collaboration between digital minimalist Nicolas Jaar and multi-instrumental jazz refugee Dave Harrington, two New York residents who recently and mischievously remixed all of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. Generally, electric guitars do not have a natural simpatico with deep digital music. But here, Jaar's staticky nocturnal productions come augmented by guitar and vocals.
If the internet has done anything for music, it seems to me that it’s smashed the notion of genre into tiny useless pieces. This wouldn’t be at all problematic if it weren’t for the fact that everyone’s favourite MP3 databases insist on including genre fields/tags (delete according to whether you recognise that iTunes et al essentially turn your hobby into 'data entry’), and because genre used to have a point, a function. I’m fascinated by the idea of what music is for, its utility and purpose.
opinion byBRENDAN FRANK Nicolas Jaar may have gotten off to an early start, but he’s sure in no hurry to get to his destination. Darkside is a collaboration between Jaar and multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington, and their work rate is as unhurried and methodical as their music. After releasing a tantalizing self-titled EP in 2011 on Jaar’s now-extinct label, Clown & Sunset, they worked steadily on more music over the course of two years.
Fans of Nicholas Jaar and Dave Harrington’s downtempo Darkside project have since August been drip fed teaser tracks from the duo’s second release, Psychic. And though there’s been little overt publicity about the project (except for a listening party in Brooklyn which attendees described as a cross between the “best party ever and a meditative release”), it’s safe to say that anticipation has been high. Having taken two years to record, Psychic takes a cyclical shape, with each song exploring the cosmic edges of rock music through electronica and minimal techno.
There aren’t many artists who will remix an entire Daft Punk album or release a prog-techno record in 2013, but Nicolas Jaar has always seemed to do his own thing. Psychic, the debut LP from his band with Dave Harrington, expands on the sprawling space-progtronica they explored on their self-titled 2011 EP. On paper at least, Darkside sounds risibly precious: after all, Jaar is the guy who was so piqued by the idea of people listening to his music digitally that he pioneered the “Prism” aluminium cube format.