Darkside – Psychic: Round 55, Nick’s choice

DARKSIDE-PSYCHICOnce again without a theme I was free to choose whatever the hell I liked. Two factors made me pick this super-current release, which had only come out two days before: the fact that Rob, when confronted with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon for the first time ever the other week, claimed it sounded like “half the stuff in Nick’s record collection” despite my prolonged dislike of all things Floyd; and the fact that I’d arranged to review this record for The Quietus, and was planning on writing it up the next night so needed to get some serious listens and cogitation in!

If you’re unaware, Darkside is Nicolas Jaar, who’s debut solo album I played here a couple of years ago, plus Dave Harrington, a jazz guitarist college friend from their only-just-finished student days at Brown University. This is not, though, just a Nicolas Jaar album with some guitar over the top; Harrington plays as wide an array of instruments as Jaar, and shares writing and production credits with him equally too.

Psychic is every bit as, ahem, phenomenologically beautiful as Space Is Only Noise (and probably less, um, non-diegetic, on the whole), but there’s something a bit more linear, consumable, and compelling about it, perhaps. Maybe it’s the guitars, but I’m not sure they’re quite as important as some people are suggesting; Harrington’s playing on Psychic is a long, long way from John Squire’s on Second Coming, for example. It’s a krautrock linearity rather than a jam band linearity, and thus much more palatable to people who find the idea of Phish offensive, but who can fully accept 20-minute freak-outs if the singer is Japanese and the musicians are German. There’s nothing like festishisation of the ‘other’ to bring out the music fan’s inner hypocrite?

This has arguably been a stonking year for records that sit somewhere in that weird genre-less area that one might call post-dance the same way we called Bark Psychosis post-rock; Holden, The Knife, Boards Of Canada, The Field, Four Tet, Brandt Brauer Frick, Pantha Du Prince, Jon Hopkins, Fuck Buttons, Atoms For Peace if I’m feeling generous. Maybe even stuff like These New Puritans, Melt Yourself Down, and Sons Of Kemet kind of counts on there, too; they certainly all share headspace in my esteem. Darkside have made an album every bit as good as anyone else in that list.

Rob listened: I’d heard this before the meeting, having read a review on Pi***f**k. I liked it. It sounded nice. I’m intrigued by Nicholas Jaar and found his solo album pleasantly enveloping. I wish I felt more drawn to this stuff, as I always seem to enjoy it, but the fact is I don’t. Of Nick’s list above I’m familiar with three or four and  those which draw me back are always the ones which at some level deliver a punch to the solar plexus, i.e. Fuck Buttons or The Knife. There’s something academic about Jaar, Pantha du Prince, Jon Hopkins, or at least I impress that upon them, which puts distance between us. I guess there’s also something around close-listening. These are all lean-in records and I think I prefer to sway back as if dodging a knock-out punch. Perhaps ultimately this is my problem. I sometimes feel slightly inadequate for preferring the music which goes for the throat rather than the brain. I should get over that. It’s completely stupid.

Tom Listened: Last meeting was a strange one. William Basinski’s 5 seconds of music (that lasted an hour – that’s about 720 loops by my calculations…and it felt like it) overwhelmed proceedings to such an extent that the other records played on the night quickly became lost in the ether. The other meeting that felt similar to me was when we played Zaireeka – everything else seemed far too conventional and consequently a bit flat after that record too. However, the two other records from Zaireeka-gate went on to be my albums of the year (Apocalypse and Smoke Ring for My Halo) and if my recollection of the way I felt about the Darkside record (I can’t actually remember what it sounds like, just how I felt when it was being played) was that it sounded phenomenologically beautiful – God it feels great to write that! – and not really all that similar to Pink Floyd. I also remember thinking at the time ‘I might go out and buy this’ but then I thought about all those Smog albums I need to have and recalled that I don’t have any money and then also considered that it sounded possibly just a teensy bit too nice on first listen to really have sticking power and so, for now, I might have to ask that nice Mr Southall for a lend instead.


Studio – West Coast: Round 47, Nick’s choice

studio-west-coastI put this on a few times the other week whilst working from home (it’s good for that kind of thing) and ended up writing about it for my 00s project over on my blog. Which made me wonder, would this go down well at record club? At 55 minutes it’s longer than I’d normally pick, but when Graham pulled out of our last meeting due to illness, this jumped to the top of the pile of things to play on un-themed evenings. So I did.

Ostensibly part of the “Balearic revival” (you may not have heard of this phenomenon) that about a dozen people on various music blogs and messageboards got excited about circa 2006/2007, Studio are a Swedish duo who make music that sits somewhere between twitchy postpunk and sophisticatedly smooth European dance, and West Coast is their only proper studio album. (There are a couple or three compilations, which bring together the various remixes they did for other people.)

I’d never thought of it before, but on the night Tom and Rob pointed out that, on the vocal cuts (especially “Self Service”), whoever it is who’s singing sounds a LOT like Robert Smith. You know, that guy from The Cure. And he does. I’ve subsequently found reference (on Wikipedia no less) to them being “the missing link between Lindstrøm and The Cure”. Which makes a lot of sense, because that’s pretty much exactly what they sound like.

West Coast has only six tracks, but the opener is a 15-minute instrumental sunshine roadtrip, and the closer is a 12-minute ambient twilight headtrip. Tracks 2, 3, and 4 are postpunky things with vocals and track 4, “Origin”, has some of my favourite ever guitars, painting dirty shapes into the corners of a great groove. I could listen to it forever.

I’m not making and great claims for West Coast; it’s not life-changing, no masterpiece, no great artistic statement particularly, but music doesn’t always need to be that. Sometimes it’s absolutely fine for it just to be incredibly cool and good to listen to, which is what this is.

Tom Listened: Nick, in response to Well..by Swell (round 34): ‘I wasn’t blown away by Swell (who I hadn’t heard of prior, I don’t think), but I did enjoy listening to Well, and sometimes that’s enough’. Substitute ‘Well…’ for ‘West Coast’ and ‘Swell’ with ‘Studio’ and my feelings towards Studio have more or less been encapsulated.

This was a pleasure to listen to from start to finish – it didn’t place any great demands on me as a listener and so I doubt it would go on to reveal much more but, much in the same way as Swell’s record (and my choice for tomorrow night’s meeting) an undemanding but enjoyable 50 minutes is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered. In fact, having listened to Studio I was minded to pull out Our Ill Wills by The Shout Out Louds partly as it is a similarly ‘easy’ listen and partly because it sound like the Cure (although in the case of the latter it’s ‘In Between Days style Cure’ rather than ‘A Forest’ style Cure).

Rob listened: I’d never heard of Studio and a couple of minutes into ‘West Coast’ it felt like a major discovery. The opening half of the opening track was muscular, lithe, funky, gripping and thirst-making and then… it just seemed to dissipate. The rest of the album sounded real pretty, but never quite managed to get its claws into me again. Perhaps repeat listens would expose more, and I can see that I may go back, but first time around it felt a little bit like being jilted at the altar.

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