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 utterly sincere, and at its most fractured and psychedelic, Harrington's guitar lends a smoky, mysterious dimension to Jaar's slinky electronica.
If Psychic only sporadically reaches the heights of Jaar's past work, it's down to the album's somewhat vague tone. Jaar's back catalogue is filled with ear-worm hooks, dazzling sonic trickery and dynamic tension. His tracks sound laidback, suffused in a kind of drowsy narcosis, but they're constructed with clear, painstaking purpose. DARKSIDE, by comparison, sound much looser and more diffuse. There are strange and cute elements in the shamanic funk of "The Only Shrine I've Seen" or the fraught ambience of "Greek Light," but they also have a meandering, jammed-out quality that, ultimately, makes them feel a little lightweight and sketchy. Likewise, "Heart" toggles between a chunky riff and a breakdown, without ever establishing a compelling focal point.
That is in stark contrast to the closing "Metatron," a proggy lament with a forlorn, lost-in-space quality that pivots around two seismic crescendos. This one is among the most emotionally affecting things Jaar has ever released. "Golden Arrow," the opening 12-minute song-suite, is similarly impressive as it evolves from downer-disco to a krautrock wig-out. Outside of those highlights, however, Psychic doesn't quite burn itself into your memory.
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Tracklist: DARKSIDE - Psychic 01. Golden Arrow
04. Paper Trails
05. The Only Shrine I've Seen
06. Freak, Go Home
07. Greek Light