By Ryan Myers
Over the years, Brown University has played host for a few of music’s most innovative musicians. In the late 80s, Will Oldham, the prolific folk renaissance man, attended the school for a solitary year and then in the late 90s, Brown graduated the viral video pioneer Damian Kulash, known for his work as the lead singer and founding member of OK GO.
Give another 10 years and some change, and Rhode Island spits out the likes of Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington. Jaar, an American-Chilean minimalist electronic composer, and Harrington, the multi-instrumentalist, came together to form the somewhat experimental psychedelic-rock and ambient-electronic fusion duo known stylistically as DARKSIDE.
Ties between the two trace back to 2011, when Jaar released his debut solo album Space is Only Noise. The work received enough critical acclaim to warrant a world tour requiring a live backing band. Another Brown student Will Epstein, also known for solo work under the title High Water, was a frequent collaborator with Nicolas and had secured one of the two necessary spots.
Epstein was then the one to recommend Harrington as the other accompaniment, but Jaar opted to have Dave play the guitar rather than his preferred bass. Harrington had never played guitar in a band at this point in his life, but was welcome to the change and quoted by The Chicago Tribune saying, “the reason I was excited … [to accompany Jaar] … was that it was not going to be more of the same.”
It was on the Berlin stop of this tour that Nicolas and Dave began bouncing musical ideas off each other. The two hoped to create something new with a common interest in the alteration of existing sounds to warp, distort and destabilize them until a separate, stand-alone composition is born.
Upon their return to the shared homeland of New York, they continued to write together in order to blend their musical backgrounds. November 17, 2011 saw the release of Darkside EP, introduced via a one-night show in Brooklyn, giving the first glance into the sounds and style this duo would generate.
The manner in which the duo transfuses and balances the airy, slow-forming, and often fizzled soundscape produced by Jaar with the earthbound yet transcendental grooviness of Harrington’s instrumentation accompanied by shadowy, haunting lyrics is remarkable.
Their uncanny ability to reshape and make something their own was proven with the duo’s second release under the pseudonym Daftside in 2013 — a SoundCloud presented remix album dubbed Random Access Memories Memories. In nature, the nonchalant reimagination of Daft Punk’s esteemed album as a form of relaxation between Psychic recording sessions was Darkside’s way of showing their severance from musical hierarchy.
Just three months after Daftside, on October 4, the duo released the debut album music critics were waiting for, Psychic. The album pays homage to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon not only in terms of sound and feel but also in name, album structure and transformation of genre.
Admiration for the innovators of psychedelic rock is clear, as Darkside aspire to ac- complish a similar effect, fueled by an apparent dissatisfaction for the familiar. As with the primary creation process, the duo also has a mystifying ability to elongate and further delineate their music when performing live. It is unlikely that anyone experience the same Darkside show twice, the duo treat their previously recorded music as raw material to be further affected, guaranteeing an unexpected result.
The musical talent and know-how of the duo combined with their distinct instrumental approaches to music has caught the ears of those who appreciate the music production process, precipitating much deserved fame.
Photo Courtesy of Jed Demoss