Psychedelic sounds have been explored over the past half-century, and all of the palates touched on have been explained and detailed by musicians from all over the world. As of late, psychedelic music has been expanding into further universes and voids with new technology and more expansive collaborations. The very last sentiment could not be said much better with this album – Darkside is a collaboration of Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington. Jaar splashed into the indie world with his solo Space Is Only Noise album in 2011, while Harrington played in El Topo (named after Alexander Jodorowsky’s acid western…?). Combining their efforts, they released a wickedly dark vision of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, making the retro album feel dissonant and even evil at times.
Psychic does a lot of psychedelic sprawling (especially on the 11-minute opener “Golden Arrow”), which showcases endless experimentation into all kinds of different shades of psychedelic. The crowning achievement of an album like this is its variety – it spans all kinds of tastes of genres splashed over the entire album, even in the middle of other tracks. Ambient interludes (“Sitra”, “Greek Light”), funky guitar-led grooves (“Paper Trails”), and expansive, over-arching mammoths (“The Only Shrine I’ve Seen”, “Freak, Go Home”) are spread throughout. Going down this album’s path is much like walking down a winding road with so many stops and forks that weren’t even visible. But the path is highly rewarding.
The production on this album is among the best of 2013. Silky smooth guitars shine in the background behind layered percussion and emotive vocals. The nuances of each detailed noise brighten the scope of each composition, laying out all of the tracks beautifully. Every track is crystal-clear to the ears, but if you’re a vinyl junkie, the album sounds even better, if you can believe it (the whole album is at 45 rpm, meaning it has the highest sound quality vinyl records allow for). They may have pulled a Trent Reznor and mastered the vinyl differently from the digital, because hearing it on wax is a whole new ballgame. Hearing the noises you hear on this album – digital or wax – make the experience (not too many albums have an experience anymore) infinitely more enjoyable. Quality is a priority to Jaar and Harrington, and it clearly shows. It’s like you’re being handed a golden platter with the five-star dish.
The standouts on this album aren’t so much certain songs, but certain passages in certain songs. This isn’t because individual songs aren’t great or anything, but one of Psychic’s better qualities is that it is an album’s album – meaning songs don’t stand out after you take it, the entire album does. I couldn’t ever imagine someone simply stating, “Oh, man, play that one Darkside track.” Save “Paper Trails,” the album’s fourth track – which is by far the catchiest. Claps and guitars lead this smooth, sultry song along a wire that balances perfectly. The low-register vocals throughout make it the album’s only sing-along-able song, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
Psychic is an exercise in psychedelic experimentation – and matched with its beautiful production – makes it a massively enjoyable listen. The subtleness of this album might stray some away, but if you’re patient, this album will shine in your mind as a definite must-have. Darkside brilliantly meld ambient ideas with expansive tones to no disappointment throughout. If you enjoy Jaar, Harrington, psychedelic music, ambient music, or good music, then make an effort of getting out there and listening. You just might be mystified.
Written by Dylan Tracy
OurVinyl | Contributor