Album Review: Become Alive by Dave Harrington Group
Very Good, Based on 5 Critics
The 405 - 85 Based on rating 8.5/10
On his first post-Darkside project Become Alive, jazz-guitarist Dave Harrington strips away any remnants of "dance music" leftover from his former project in favor of retaining its spacier psychedelic elements and pushing them into more expansive places. Despite working with nearly a dozen of his "favorite musicians and closest friends," including former Darkside partner Nicolas Jaar (who also co-produces), the music often makes use of little to no percussion and relies on textures and space for rhythm and movement. Turning his attention classic jazz albums of the late '60s and early '70s for inspiration, Harrington creates music heavy on improvisation and atmosphere without feeling cluttered or ponderous.
In 2014, shortly after the release of Darkside's ambient and darkly groovy record Psychic, guitarist Dave Harrington booked three days in a studio to improvise with some of his especially talented friends. The results of those sessions were then tweaked and edited electronically by Harrington over the following two years, resulting in this year's Become Alive.Dave Harrington's group stay in the realm of cinematic mood-scapes and atmospheres for the most part, despite some of their free-jazz inclinations. This restraint has its merits: Harrington's editing gives the album a more mature pacing, and helps rein in what might've been a much jammier record.
Before he became Nicolas Jaar’s foil in the electro-noir duo Darkside, guitarist Dave Harrington was immersed in the jazz world, hitting shows at the old Knitting Factory and Tonic in the late 1990s and early '00s. The New York improv scene was at the time especially vital, but like any other young, hungry player, Harrington began to dabble outside of jazz so as to have enough working gigs, doing time in metal, synth-pop, and indie bands. With Darkside now on indefinite hiatus and Harrington’s profile significantly raised, it makes sense that he would form his own band and circle back to his improvised music roots.
Two years ago, Dave Harrington and Nicolas Jaar broke up their band, Darkside. They still make music on their own, of course, and Harrington has been helming improvisational sessions with ten friends, including Jaar, on and off for years.Like Darkside, Become Alive moves fluidly between genres, but at its heart is abstract rock with notes of jazz and electronic flourishes. (Avant-garde jazz artist Colin Stetson seems to influence the sound design and impressionistic use of space.) Harrington & Co.
It’s hard to know what you want to do, but it’s even harder to accept not knowing and fork total control over to serendipity. Former jazz guitarist, now multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington is caught somewhere between the two. On new full-length Become Alive, Harrington pulls a dozen musicians on board to tread through what it means to be present — or to at least try to be.