It’s been almost three years since Chilean-American electronic wunderkind, Nicholas Jaar, has released a full length album. But, as those who heard Jaar’s 2011 debut album,“Space Is Only Noise,” know, patience is one of his virtues.
“Space Is Only Noise” featured laid-back beats, smokey instrumentation, and found sounds along with processed vocals and film dialogue. His tracks rarely exceed 100 bpm, relatively slow for modern electronic music, and his orchestrations, though minimal, are diverse and thought-provoking.
Enter “Psychic,” the debut full-length by Darkside, an IDM collaboration between Jaar and guitarist, Dave Harrington. While there are definitely some similarities to “Space Is Only Noise,” “Psychic,” which drops on Oct. 8, is a more focused and cohesive album – representing a great leap forward for the gifted, young producer.
Listeners won’t hear any dialogue from French films, nor does Ray Charles make an appearance. Jaar does stick to his usual down-tempo format, but songs don’t feel so slow. Or maybe it’s that they build, blossom, into magnificent crescendos rather than plodding along with no real purpose or destination, as “Space Is Only Noise” had a tendency to do.
Take for example “Golden Arrow,” the album opener. It starts with some clangorous, atmospheric electronics, a droning organ rises in the mix, then some low-frequency whomps, errant bursts of static and other sound clips. Finally, as the song nears the five minute mark, Jaar drops a tight boom-chick beat, Harrington starts strumming the guitar, a groovy bassline kicks in, and the song really comes together.
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For another six and a half minutes, Jaar and Harrington take the song through a variety of motifs involving Sting-like vocals, strings, and a slew of funky guitar techniques. The song really does evolve into something extraordinary over its 11.5-minute lifespan, and when it ends with an abrupt bass hit, the listener is left wanting more – in a good way.
Harrington’s guitar work fits nicely in Jaar’s compositions. The electric guitar has struggled to find its place in electronic music, but Darkside has combined guitar and EDM with impressive results. The funky single note lines in “Heart,” the honky-tonkish call-and-response on “Paper Trails,” the “Thriller”-esque upstrokes on “The Only Shrine I’ve Seen,” all work masterfully, providing a vintage vibe to a very modern style.
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Though some may be more nostalgic for the musique concrète meanderings of Jaar’s earlier work, “Psychic” is a masterpiece in its own right. The songs are more danceable, despite their slower tempo. The various textures and instruments sit perfectly in the mix, and the songs have real pay off. Don’t be surprised when this album starts showing up on “Best of 2013” lists.