With a sound residing somewhere between Tangerine Dream circa Thief and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, the debut full length from Darkside (Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington) makes for a compelling mission statement that should have the hippest of Brooklynites dribbling with pleasure. The New York natives have created something special in Psychic; unique even by contemporary standards and perhaps best measured by the spirit of independence that Jaar brings to the mixing desk and, just as importantly, by the melodic, bluesy sensibilities that Harrington offers. This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.
The sheer beauty of the soundscapes on this album are matched only by the underlying complexities of the compositions, but to further understand or even truly enjoy this debut, it helps in approaching it as one extensive piece of music rather than a collection of fairly spectacular, emotive tracks. Yes, there are moments of individual glory here. Opener ‘Golden Arrow’ is as epic in length as it is experimentation. It throbs along, breathing deeply and reverberating like an electric lung before the well-known Jaar sound of slow, bugged-out house comes in to play. At just over eleven minutes long, it’s a journey in itself, but one that could easily satiate fans of ambient without letting down the house or techno advocates. Bleeding into ‘Sitra’, a quiet, Plaid-like refrain track, then into ‘Heart’, a neo-blues meets synth/sequencer jaunt, the dynamic of this album comes sharply into focus. Again, it’s deceptively easy to recommend taking these tracks for what they are and enjoying them on an isolated level, but there is far more satisfaction to be gained from just letting the album run, and run, and, well, run.
‘Paper Trails’ eases in gradually and soothingly from ‘Heart’ and has a similar vibe. It’s solemn, graceful electronic blues that the xx would applaud but its deep and lush synths create a deeper dimension. It has an altruistic and uncompromising soul. The remaining tracks aren’t any different in their modus operandi. That bleeding together of sounds becomes the fluidity of progression, the chugging along of ‘The Only Shrine I’ve Seen’, ‘Freak, Go Home’ and closing number ‘Metatron’ serve as more than interesting portraits of the dexterity of our composers. Moments of electric funk, dubby beats and skilful guitar and percussion layering are organically evolved over the course of this album. It feels substantial because it grows until the end and that is a moving quality to behold.
This is a late night and very early morning treat for the ears. What’s maybe more likeable about it is the fact that it so easily seems to transcend genre and era; it wouldn’t be out of place as a soundtrack to an eighties sci-fi or a companion to a spot of flaneur-ing around a future city. Very Vangelis and very good. Aaron Drain
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