Review Summary: A sentient appreciation of sound.
There’s an obvious sentiment to be drawn from the unambiguously titled Psychic. It stays with you. It finds a vacant part of your mind and nestles in, unimposing. It beckons for your return by way of association. Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington have created a sound that is above all else natural, to the point of defying the unworldly, manufactured fabric of electronic music. The minute attention they have afforded to the gaps and cavities is a reminder of the everyday ambience so often lost in transmission.
This cross-legged contemplation and appreciation of serenity is rare enough as it is, but rarer still is the minimalist musician who manages captivation. Let’s face it; ambient, minimal music is a genre that is more than susceptible to banality, easy to replicate whilst sacrificing meaning. Jaar has already proved his worth with his debut Space Is Only Noise, a certifiable how-to on conjuring intrigue from empty air, and even with his claim that the Darkside project is “the closest thing to rock & roll I’ve ever done”, it’s the deft sparsity and moderation of Psychic that keeps it burrowed in the brain.
Jaar’s ability to manipulate time is the backbone of Psychic. Revered opener ‘Golden Arrow’ is just shy of a quarter of the album’s duration at 11 minutes, and it sails by without drawing attention to the fact. Faint rumbles and wails converse with one another underneath an escalating organ pulse, like the gradual rising sun, to be met with the waking of wildlife – periodically interjecting cello, zipping synth tones, ghostly jitters and a sturdy, reticent beat. A momentary silence precedes the introduction of snare and hi-hat, and Harrington’s muted guitar enters covertly, hinting at the lengths this partnership could go to. Just as the percussion elements broaden and the wails become more pronounced, it slinks to its airy denouement; you’re left questioning if that was really 11 minutes and not 5.
Whilst there is a clear effort to stray from the sticky tropes of electronic music, Psychic doesn’t completely eliminate them. Part of its charm lies in the way it balances the familiar and the novel, and although anything that could be considered a hook is largely absent, that isn’t to say that Jaar and Harrington refuse to notch up the dials when necessary. ‘Heart’ begins with steadfast thumping, a pulsation through the murk providing a slope for Harrington’s guitar to earnestly slalom down, Jaar’s breathy falsetto the aiding wind. Against the littering of tribal hand claps and thuds that dance around ‘The Only Shrine I’ve Seen’ and the smoky lounge, eyes-shut jam turned subtle suffocation of closer ‘Metatron’, there’s no impugning the aims of Darkside. There’s an organic integrity to Psychic. It twines together styles that aren’t typically seen in each other’s company, and it is undeniably forward thinking, but the most endearing quality is that there’s no flagrancy. It’s not painted as a ‘strange bedfellows’ type of collaboration. It is the union of two musicians, far apart on the spectrum, bound by a mutual, inherent, and sentient appreciation of sound.