It’s been nearly a decade since we last heard from Darkside, the collaborative project of sound artists Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington. The college buds emerged in 2013 with Psychic, the furthest he and Harrington would venture into traditional “rock music” with critics frequently citing Pink Floyd as a primary influence.
Psychic proved to be a seductive and groovy foray, highlighting Jaar’s meticulous soundscapes against Harrington’s captivating guitar loops. Spirals is a different beast altogether and it seems there’s a valley of difference in the technical skills and production between each release and an overall maturity. Born out of a New Jersey jam session in 2018, Spirals is closer to Jaar’s sophomore project Sirens, with atmospheric tracks utilizing static and high frequencies like listening to a cacophony of digital birdsongs in the canopy of tracks.
Harrington is able to make his guitar wail like a wounded animal in the opening track ‘Narrow Road’ and throughout the album. With nylon strings and acoustic guitar scattered throughout the project, Jaar leans more into his political commentary. “Lawmaker’” goes at a marching crawl while speaking prophetically about a messiah figure that controls the masses, a commentary on the socio-political influence of big pharma in the public domain.
In some tracks Jaar’s vocals are the most clear we’ve heard them yet. It’s refreshing to hear the confidence in his songwriting, while he leans on effects and clever layered mixes of his voice. If listeners are expecting similar tracks to Psychic’s hit single “Paper Trails” they’re not going to find it here. There’s much more to digest in Spirals and it’s a welcome evolution in the collaborative space that Jaar and Harrington have created for themselves.