Darkside is the brainchild of American-Chilean prodigy Nicholas Jaar, and the (relatively unknown) multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington. The pair were introduced when Jaar was looking for a touring band, and found Harrington through a mutual friend. As such, I was expecting Psychic to be very much a Nicholas Jaar record.
Listening to the 11 minute opening track, ‘Golden Arrow’, didn’t initially disprove my preconception. The track teases with levels of synthesizer being introduced and taken away, and the occasional faint hiss of static noise in the background give an ethereal feel. It takes almost two minutes before any form of beat is presented, in typical Jaar fashion of keeping things slow and steady, and letting the spaces around the music tell the story. After five minutes the drum beat kicks off, and Harrington’s staccato guitar allows a groove into the track. Whilst not too long, ‘Golden Arrow’ seems slightly too long in the context of the record, weighing in at just over a quarter of the total run time.
Compared to the vast opener, second track ‘Sitra’ feels like an interlude, leading into the gorgeous ‘Heart’. Jaar’s delicate falsetto is layered over a riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Pink Floyd record, showing that the influence Darkside took was not only in naming themselves after that album. ‘Paper Trails’ follows suit, Harrington’s bluesy guitar and Jaar’s clicking beat and sultry smoky voice complement each other delicately, and are reminiscent of The Doors.
‘The Only Shrine I’ve Seen’ is the most overtly dancey song on the album, with a pulsating beat and steady bass line leading up to a lurching ‘drop’ where every element dissipates, before coming back stronger with yet another groovy guitar lick to complete the track.
The most experimental track on the LP is perhaps ‘Freak, Go Home’ which begins with polyrhythmic percussion and a few seconds of heavily distorted guitar, which makes way for a disco beat, complete with a cowbell. Unlike ‘traditional’ electronic music, it eschews the practice of a constant tempo. A reverb-laden chorus lands briefly towards the end of the track, summating the most psychedelic part of the album.
Ultimately, the album is a potent concoction of electronic music and bluesy rock n roll. There are moments when neither influence is more prominent than the other, Jaar demonstrating his abilities as a producer by taking a backseat role on occasion and letting Harrington show his instrumental prowess. There is a thick, intense atmosphere to the album, with Psychic certainly living up to its name. If Daft Punk’s most recent release blended the upbeat elements of disco and soft rock, then Darkside (as their name suggests) provide the broody, dark counterpart in Psychic.
Psychic was released on Other People/Matador on 8th October 2013