Psychic by Nicolas Jaar’s latest project, Darkside, is an album that improves with each listen.
The eleven minute opening track, Golden Arrow, is a bold start, but it sets the tone well for this slow-paced, psychedelic-electronic album. After four and a half minutes of almost nothing, the song finds its groove and you can see how the guitar of Dave Harrington and the electronic mastery of Nicolas Jaar work together.
Darkside seem to be greatly influenced by the experimental German bands of the late 1960’s, bands like Can, Tangerine Dream, Neu! and Faust, while there are also nods to more psychedelic bands that emerged in the same period, such as The Grateful Dead, 13 Floor Elevators and Pink Floyd.
Much of the album has a haunting and eerie sound, most prominent on the ghostly interlude Greek Light. If there is a beat, it will be slow and clap-like, accompanied by scatters of sounds – the occasional guitar riff or bassline, the tinkering a few melancholic piano keys, electronic ticks and clicks – all sounding as if recorded in a cold, dark room. There is little singing, more occasional distant wailing, but there are moments of distorted verse or chanting.
The album feels like a series of waves, seamlessly washing in and out. Songs fade in at the beginning and out at the end, and sometimes in the middle too. When the beat does become danceable, as on the The Only Shrine I’ve Seen, it is often not allowed to be sustained for long periods, pausing every so often to remind you this is a dark and serious piece of art.
The highlight of the album is the excellent Freak, Go Home. A steady, simple beat is danced around by a swirl of noises that move in and out. Three minutes in, everything settles and the song prepares itself. A voice enters with a whisper followed a while later by a distant shout. The inaudible, echoing voice grows louder and louder, noises all come crashing together as the song builds to a frenzy, completed by the line “Go home!” before the song exits through a prolonged fade out, the same way it came in.
Whilst I can see that Psychic won’t be to everyone’s tastes, I find it a fascinating listen. It’s slow and dark with a good structure, a smooth flow and some great moments, especially in the second half.