Join the Darkside: Nicolas Jaar with rock’n’roll guitar
The electronic musician has teamed up with guitarist Dave Harrington for a dark and mesmerising album
Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington: met at Brown University
Some collaborations are born equal and some have equality thrust upon them. In the case of Darkside, most folks with an interest in electronic music will have already come across Nicolas Jaar. He’s the New York-born musician whose Space Is Only Noise debut album is a masterpiece in spine-tingling ambience and lush electronic textures.
The inventive Jaar has also been involved with labels (Clown & Sunset), interesting remixes (including Grizzly Bear and Nina Simone) and new musiclistening formats (the Prism was a tiny aluminum cube with two headphone sockets that played a compilation of his label’s music).
While Jaar is the known quantity in Darkside, Dave Harrington might require an introduction. The pair were students at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and they met when Jaar was putting together a band to tour his debut album.
Harrington started out in his musical career as “a very focused – unusually focused – jazz player” who played acoustic bass in jazz and free jazz combos.
“Between the time I stopped being a jazz player and met Nico, I did a bunch of different things, because I said yes to everything that came around. I played keyboards in an indie rock band, bass in a band trying to sound like Spacemen 3 and synth in a metal band.”
Jaar, though, wanted Harrington to play guitar. “Weirdly when I met Nico and started making music with him, it was more in my comfort zone,” says Harrington.
“I knew nothing about electronic music and was playing guitar in a band for the first time, but the way we found to use the guitar in the context of the music was much more bass-like. The way I play guitar is not idiomatic to a lot of things you associate with rock guitar. I don’t strum or play power chords, and [I] use a lot of electronics and loops to modulate the sound.”
For Jaar, Harrington’s arrival allowed him to make a rock’n’roll record. “I remember I was very excited the first time I started looping Dave’s guitar parts,” says Jaar. “I’d been waiting for that moment and for the prospect to do whatever I wanted to do with this new sound. It’s pretty interesting when you try to get an instrument to do something it’s not supposed to do. Like put a 909 [Roland drum machine] 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.”