Darkside : Spiral

The last we heard of Darkside, the collaboration between Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington, the two had put their space-y music project on hiatus. Their sonically rich debut Psychic came out in 2013, but by 2014 it seemed as if Darkside had dissipated into the ether.

But then last year the duo returned with the single “Liberty Bell”, which saw them returning to their 70s, Pink Floyd-meets-Tangerine Dream aesthetic, but with more emphasis on Jaar’s vocals. Darkside’s sophomore album Spiral is here and continues to evolve around the pristine production of debut Psychic, while opening their sound up and letting some light in.

The sound of Darkside has the free-floating vibe of Dark Side-era Pink Floyd. The meticulous production of Alan Parsons and the bluesy swagger of David Gilmour’s guitar lines permeate their sound. But rather than just ape Pink Floyd, these two add elements of Tangerine Dream, NEU!, modern electronic music, and even ambient. Harrington is an incredible guitarist, as well as being proficient on many instruments. Jaar worked mainly in electronic and experimental music, as well as being a production wizard. These two together have created something quite unique, and Spiral sees them expanding their sonic footprint.

When you drop your debut single/album opener and it’s 11-minutes long, then you better be able to live up to that kind of statement. The first single off Psychic was the epic “Golden Arrow”, and it established Darkside as a project to watch. “Liberty Bell” was the first sounds from their sophomore release. While not 11-minutes, the song continues the band’s knack for groove and feel. Slide guitar, Jaar’s restrained vocals(which oddly enough bring to mind Beta Band’s Steve Mason), and some tasteful acoustic guitar all give the song an almost Latin flavor. “Inside Is Out There” continues that Latin vibe with hand percussion and flamenco guitar. Of course Darkside adds electronic flourishes to give it an almost psychedelic feel.

Album opener “Narrow Road” has a dream-like quality, opening on ambient sounds and an electronic drone that lays just under the surface. The vocals have a chant-like quality, and the instrumentation goes a long way to give the track an otherworldly feel. Of course Harrington layers some funky guitar lines over top just as a reminder that you’re indeed listening to a Darkside record. Title track “Spiral” brings to mind late-era Radiohead in it’s dark and mysterious production. It’s heavy in mood and sound.

Spiral is a welcome return to one of the more interesting and evocative musical collaborations in recent years. Let’s hope Darkside doesn’t wait another eight years to give us a new album.

7.9 out of 10

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