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DARKSIDE: Psychic (Matador / Other People)

2013 was without question a year of reinvention and refashioning. A year where rappers became anti-establishment minimalists and alternative rock juggernauts became disco infatuated carnival starters. New ground was definitely treaded in music this year but no new sonic territories were traipsed quite as confidently and neatly as ‘Psychic’. This collaboration of multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington and electronic mastermind Nicolas Jaar started in 2011 with an EP but this year saw the duo fully flex their muscles with a rework of ‘Random Access Memories’ under the pseudonym DAFTSIDE and then their much anticipated debut full length. 

‘Psychic’ is however, the true realisation of everything this collaborative outing had the potential to produce. A seemingly blasé execution of closely calculated musicianship and an enduringly rewarding album that sounds like the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 21st (or maybe 22nd) century- solid, sophisticated but constantly exploratory. At 4 minutes and 45 seconds on 11 minute opener, ‘Golden Arrow’ a meandering, serpentine beat buffers up and stretches it’s legs like a robot from a familiar sounding future. These themes of postulation and wishfulness float around the world of ‘Psychic’ like an aimless spotlight. On ‘Paper Trails’ Jaar’s vocal levitates on top of Harrington’s futuristic plucking as the LP continues to move forward apace scattering cosmic sonic debris at every turn. The musical curiosity that Harrington and Jaar share is what makes this release so outstanding. They were fortunate to have both a fan base willing to listen in their droves because of Jaar’s reputation but also a brand new name, a new vision and the opportunity to make whatever music felt fitting. 

The comparisons to Pink Floyd were born largely out of the name of the project but also the stereotype of Ivy League kids (Jarr and Harrington met at Brown University) having a drug and Pink Floyd phase at some point in their education. Critics would have been eager to brandish ‘Psychic’ as an afterthought from a over indulged academic with too much free time. Whilst their is no question around the fact that Nicolas Jaar makes music you need to think about, ‘Psychic’ is an LP that doesn’t come across as pretentious. This is a safari ride of sound but not one with closed gates. The final seconds of closer, ‘Metatron’ are emotive and delicate. Harrington’s guitar whimpers over the the leftover synthesized throbs and a year of heavyweight returns is arguably upstaged by something people truly had never heard before.

Words: Duncan Harrison | Illustration: Peculiar Man

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AuthorDuncan Harrison