A walk on the Darkside
Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington at play in Dublin last night
Sometimes, the hardest thing in the world to do are the simple things. When it comes to music especially, the temptation to add layers and swathes and levels to the sound is always present because it delays having to draw a line under the work. It makes sense in many ways, this addiction to more detail, this compulsion to go macro rather than micro. The fear factor takes hold and something isn’t considered done because there’s always a nagging will to add more.
In the case of Darkside, the collaboration between electronic music wizard Nicholas Jaar and jazz bassist turned guitarist Dave Harrington, anything which is added to the initial bare bones of the drone is there for a reason. Last year’s lush “Psychic” album comes with electronic tones, bluesy drones, cosmic guitars and sci-fi wobbles, but they were all there for the right reasons. It was a sound sculpted with the knifeskills of a well-trained surgeon.
At last night’s show in Dublin’s Button Factory, there was much to admire in the simplicity of what this approach had produced. The two musicians worked and drilled and honed each song with painstaking craftsmanship. There were times when Harrington’s guitars took their bearings from the liquid playing of a Steve Hillage or a Ry Cooder, but it all rolled out as per Jaar’s precise, pared compass points so there was no meandering or excess baggage on that stage.
During an interview with this paper last year, Jaar said that working with Harrington allowed him to make a rock’n’roll record albeit a rock’n'roll record under his terms. “It’s pretty interesting when you try to get an instrument to do something it’s not supposed to do. Like put a 909 and a guitar together, it’s not obvious that they should be talking to each other. The guitar is the one instrument that you have to play because sampling it doesn’t work. If you don’t have a Wurlitzer, you can get a nice Wurlitzer sound and put it in a sampler and you can do a bunch of stuff with it. But with guitar, you can’t do that so, in the back of my mind, I wanted to make some rock’n’roll and that’s what Darkside is, I suppose.”
That version of rock’n’roll was certainly on the agenda last night as Harrington’s guitar added a dimension to the proceedings which was quite engrossing and which electronic music often lacks. The resonance between Jaar’s dubby, kinetic whirls and Harrington’s educated guitarcraft throughout was something to marvel at. There was no understatement or overstatement, just a sound which was compelling throughout.
There was even a lightshow which was definitely worth a few lines. It was a show aid which truly worked, one where the minimalism of the palette was as striking as the superb, hypnoptic use of a followspot, a giant, revolving, circular, reflective surface and dry ice to mesmerise the room. For once, a case of smoke and mirrors creating the right illusion.
<Darkside play the Body & Soul festival in June>