In 2011, Nicolas Jaar was looking to flesh out his patient, pulsating sound for live performances and turned first to the comfy confines of his own college. “I said to Will (Epstein, saxophonist and a frequent collaborator) ‘Who’s the best musician you know at Brown?’ He said, ‘Dave, he plays bass.’ I said, ‘Tell him to bring a guitar instead.'”
Such began the partnership between Dave Harrington (on guitar) and Jaar, now doing business as Darkside—and the pairing is paying awesome-sounding rewards. Psychic is an especially strong record, radiating brilliantly across the dance-pop spectrum to form something wholly unique, and simply sublime.
Like a lava lamp just being plugged in, the record slowly takes shape atop ambience and an ethereal-sounding vocal before hitting a tingly groove around the six-minute mark. It sounds like Jaar, certainly, but also like something else. It’s a cerebral send-up on dance music, a sound that is at once influenced by the past and the unknowable future—like if ’70s-era David Bowie beamed his music to ambitious aliens who also had access to Ableton.
The opening groove dissipates, its segue of Sitra sounding similar Jaar’s meticulous Space is Only Noise, slowly thumping back to life with this distinct, Darkside pulse.
Harrington’s guitar is a clean sort, with precise, well-placed fingerpicking. It provides the perfect tactile sensation to Jaar’s echoey, ethereal vocals, urging up the emotional energy on tunes like “Heart” and “Paper Trails”. Never one to be pigeonholed, Jaar’s production skitters towards the deep end with the radiating “Freak, Go Home” and the languid “Greek Light” before ultimately slinking towards salvation on “Metatron”.
The longer songs like “Golden Arrow” and “The Only Shrine I’ve Seen” prove to be some of the best, allowing the grooves to build slowly, making Jaar’s knack for clever, off-kilter drops all the more potent. His production is still patient and pristine, but better brought to life by Harrington’s tingly touch.
All told, Psychic is catchy and well-crafted without ever feeling manufactured, equally at home on headphones or a forward-thinking dance-party – making it unquestionably one of the year’s most interesting and engaging listens thus far.
4 out of 5
You can purchase Psychic on Amazon.