Release Date: Jul 23, 2021
Record label: Matador
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Darth Vader voice: join me. Spiral is an album overflowing with the sort of aesthetic crowd-pleasers that make it nearly impossible not to enjoy. The whole thing bubbles, glimmers, and echos thanks to a potent blend of electronic/indie/psychedelic influences. Composer Nicolas Jaar and multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington thrive upon creating a mini universe where the laws of music feel elastic: guitars bend and wrap themselves around lush aqueous beats, while acoustic notes trickle in subtly to a serenade of bells/chimes.
Released in 2013, Psychic, the debut album of Brunonian duo Darkside (stylized often: DARKSIDE)-—Chilean-born electronic musician Nicolas Jaar and American multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington—is the closest I've ever come to experiencing Ego Death at the hands of an audio recording. For film it was Stalker (1979), for literature it was Gravity's Rainbow, and for video games it was BioShock. I hadn't yet encountered an album with quite the same vastness and kaleidoscopic sensibilities, an album that rejected categorization or genre convention in this exact manner, an album that could make you forget who you thought you were in the best way possible, until 2013.
A funny thing happened on the way to Darkside's return from hiatus. After all, Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington announced that the band was "coming to an end, for now" back in April 2014, less than a year after their breakout LP, 2013's Psychic. Seven years and countless global calamities later, the duo return with the record no one expected them to make -- a warm, woodsy and acoustic-tinged odyssey about the end of the world.
Their long-awaited sophomore follow-up, Spiral, announced at the tail-end of last winter rides a familiar crest. But while these songs reflect the duo's signature range of heady, genre-bending funk, a majority of its output here is strikingly sparse, leaving an otherwise lackluster shine on what could've been a more powerful return. Darkside 's music is crafted with patience at its forefront.
For listeners drawn to Nicolás Jaar and Dave Harrington's intimidating CVs, Darkside seemed like a normie pursuit: a visionary electronic producer and restless guitarist making a psych-rock album that sounds really good if you're high. While the duo seemed like the types who'd never even need, let alone make, a dorm-room staple like their 2013 debut Psychic, Darkside proved their egghead credentials were compatible with the elevated populism of the Gateway Album. Even in the streaming era, budding tastemakers still might need Kid A or Nevermind as an entry point to IDM or classic indie rock and Psychic served as a grand terminal connecting dozens of far-off, cosmic vistas--whether it was Meddle, Future Days, or even Space Is Only Noise.
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