Music

Darkside: Psychic

Psychic isn’t quite rock, but it does lean more heavily on backbeats, guitars, and occasionally even traditional song structure than any of Jaar’s previous work.


Darkside

Psychic

Label: Matador
US Release Date: 2013-10-08
UK Release Date: 2013-10-07
Amazon
iTunes

Nicolas Jaar is usually classified as an electronic musician. But he doesn’t see things that way. “I don't have any real electronic music influences apart from early [Ricardo] Villalobos,” he once told Interview. “I've been very much into instrumental hip-hop, like the Alchemist, DJ Babu, Madlib, J Dilla, ... Ethiopian jazz, Keith Jarrett.” Now working as one half of the duo Darkside, Jaar seems to be expanding into new territory. His latest album, Psychic, colonizes traditional song structure and guitar-rock for its own uses.

Back in 2010, while still in college, Jaar released his full-length debut, the critically acclaimed Space Is Only Noise. His omnivorous appetite for experimental musicians shows clearly on his first album. The vocals usually are deep, dark, and mildly chanted. A violin or a thick, aggressive saxophone appears on occasion, as do weird gurgling noises. Jaar plays with drum textures. His aim was “going against the really fast, harsh techno sound, against the whole clubby aspect of it.” He succeeded.

More recently, working as Daft Side, Jaar remixed the entire Daft Punk album Random Access Memories to make Random Access Memories Memories, stripping away almost all the lush beds of studio-maestro instrumentation and smooth vocals that marked the original. “Give Life Back to Music” becomes a crude beat, while the strutting guitar that drove the first version slowly bleeds in, battling, shiny and airtight, against the smashing percussion that cares little for elaborate technique. While Daft Punk sometimes stumbled over their own grandiosity, Jaar didn’t.

Psychic shows that he is still on the move. “I said to myself, 'I'm just going to go and make a fucking rock-and-roll record because it fits right now where I am,” he told Pitchfork. This is reminiscent of a comment Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy, once made about his album I See a Darkness. Baffled that critics were calling it “folk” or “Appalachian,” he noted, “What the fuck? We made a rock record!” Sometimes, musicians and listeners feel very differently about what constitutes “fucking rock-and-roll.”

Psychic isn’t quite rock, but it does lean more heavily on backbeats, guitars, and occasionally even traditional song structure than any of Jaar’s previous work. The vocals are even clear at times. “Metatron” may be the most straightforward thing Jaar has ever put his name on, with clearly repeating guitar and bass. “Heart” has a raggedy marching guitar part and high vocals – it could have been on an indie record from the ’00s, though it’s not Jaar at his most interesting.

There’s still plenty of the old Jaar floating around. “Freak Go Home” begins with firm drums, though all sorts of other clatters are also interested in laying down rhythm, and there’s a series of electronic noises that might emit from somewhere in a spaceship. The singing is still hard to make out, but “go home,” rings through clearly. “Greek Light” has a weird high tone on it; it could be a flute, it could be something else. “Golden Arrow", at more than 11 minutes, keeps reaching, a testament to the possibility that slow and steady might win a race.

“Paper Trails” works a handclap beat and bluesy-funk riffs. The vocals here sound like they could be sung by Leonard Cohen: “I want a house to live in / Where are you when I need you?” Jaar told the New York Times in 2012, “You’re not thinking about, ‘OK, this is going to be a hit.’ You’re just thinking, ‘I want to make someone cry.’ That’s all I care about. I just want to make someone feel something.” How he goes about doing that doesn’t really matter.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image