Title: Spiral
Artist: DARKSIDE
Label: Matador
Genre: Electronic / Rock / Neo-Psychadelia
Released: 23 July 2021

Tracklist

1. Narrow Road
2. The Limit
3. The Question Is To See It All
4. Lawmaker
5. I'm the Echo
6. Spiral
7. Liberty Bell
8. Inside Is Out There
9. Only Young

DARKSIDE

Spiral

"I'm turning around
No, I can't see the ground
Don't sow what you reap
Don't feel what you see"

I’ve been absolutely fascinated with the work of Nicolas Jaar over the last couple of years. He’s one of the best, most interesting producers working today, and even if you’re unfamiliar with his name, there’s a good chance you’ve probably still heard some of his work. Aside from releasing several records under his own name, as well as with various other monikers such as “Against All Logic”, he’s also become a fairly prominent figure as a prolific collaborator and producer. Working alongside artists such as The Weeknd and FKA Twigs in recent years, Jaar has managed to integrate his sound proficiently into several different styles and genres. The music he creates under his own name has started to delve deeply into sprawling, ambient compositions, while his work under Against All Logic is far more eclectic, combining sounds of several different eras through sampling, and repurposing them into gritty, abrasive house music. And while his production skills showcase a wide array of style, to me, it can all be summed up in a single word; organic.

Whether it’s the earthy, electronic soundscapes of his latest albums; ‘Telas’, and ‘Cenizas’, or Against All Logic’s striking collections of industrial, noisy IDM with “2012-2017” and “2017-2019”, everything that Jaar creates feels so incredibly rich and organic. Even when listening to FKA Twigs’ latest album, “MAGDALENE”, his signature style comes across so strongly, that every moment he appears, it becomes immediately apparent. And while I’ve developed a lot of interest in Jaar’s work as of late, one project of his that I was unaware of until now, was his alliance with David Harrington under the name DARKSIDE.

DARKSIDE originated all the way back in 2011, however they’ve only released a handful of music together over the years. There was an EP, a record, and strangely enough, a remix album of Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” under the name Daftside in 2013. From 2014 onwards, though, the project had gone on hiatus, with Harrington going on to create music with his own group, and Jaar continuing to expand his musical repertoire while working with several different collaborators on multiple projects. But listening back on the work that the group had created together, it’s a shame they didn’t pursue it for several more albums. The band had managed to capture an extremely unique and mesmerising fusion of electronic and rock music, which felt wholly original. Harrington’s proficiency with the guitar, and Jaar’s expertise with synthesiser and production, culminated in a fantastic sound, and one that I wish I was aware of sooner, considering my fascination with Jaar’s work. But thankfully, the duo decided to reunite last year to create another record together, and so the release of “Spiral” has introduced me to a group that I may have otherwise unfortunately missed.

“Spiral”, like the rest of Jaar’s work, is immaculately produced. The same organic quality that permeates throughout the rest of his music is captured to a similar degree here, while embracing a far more rock-centric sound. His devotion to dark, atmospheric, and ambient soundscapes is still omnipresent throughout the record, but it’s given a beautiful finish with Harrington’s contribution of some excellent, groovy guitar playing. Like Nicolas’ production in other projects, the record is driven by its percussion. There’s some absolutely fantastic drum beats throughout “Spiral”, and they’re often the centrepiece of each track, lending a stage for Harrington’s guitarwork. This can be heard on songs such as the opener, ‘Narrow Road’, as well as the banger of the album, ‘Liberty Bell’. But in moments in which the record is completely devoid of percussion, such as on its title track, Jaar instead chooses to fill in the song’s gaps with an earie, dark ambience. Moments such as this are some of the most effective on the entire record; Jaar is able to create an extremely expansive sound, despite using very little to do so. And while this sometimes leads to the record sounding slightly undercooked, many of the songs here are far more intricate than they may immediately appear.

‘The Limit’ and ‘Lawman’ are instant standout moments on the record, each with their own hypnotic and strangely catchy sound; perfectly harnessing the chemistry between Jaar and Harrington’s unlikely combination of styles. ‘Lawman’ carries a distinctly old western sound, reminiscent to what I’ve heard in recent years from the likes of Viagra Boys and HMTLD. And while it’s definitely one of the least nuanced moments on the record, it’s a lot of fun, and breaks the track-listing up a little in order to make the album more digestible. ‘The Limit’, on the other hand, is by far my favourite song on the record. It’s the best showcase of the duo’s collaborative abilities, and features the most addictive hook of the entire album. It somehow feels both vast, yet minimal in its execution, and this strange dichotomy creates an extremely compelling, but difficult to pin down sound. It also features some of the best vocals from Jaar; which is actually something that I otherwise found to be a weakness throughout the rest of ‘Spiral’. While I absolutely love his production, I’m far less enthused by his singing across this project. It often feels quite one-note and underdeveloped, sometimes even to the detriment of the rest of the music. And while I don’t think Jaar has a bad voice, his constant use of falsetto feels pretty superficial and repetitive when included in every single track of ‘Spiral’. Thankfully however, it fits nicely within ‘The Limit’, and along with the fantastic production, this lends to one of the album’s strongest moments.

‘Spiral’ was a welcome surprise for me. I had no previous knowledge that DARKSIDE even existed, and as a fan of Jaar’s work, this was a real treat to hear. To see his signature style integrated with such an infectious blend of psychedelic rock, thanks to the excellent work of David Harrington, really scratched an itch I didn’t even know I had. I sincerely hope the group don’t go on another hiatus after this project, as the potential of their partnership is indisputable. They could very well be able to create a masterpiece together, and while I don’t think ‘Spiral’ quite fully realises the vast possibilities of the project, it’s still a pretty great album, and well worth a listen if you’re a fan of Jaar, Harrington, or just electronic and rock music in general.

"He's got the cures we need
People rejoice and laugh
They say how hard it's been
And how easy it'll be"

Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 12/08/2021
8/10
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Comments

Aiden

6/9/21, 8:39 am

Loved it 😍

tamara

5/9/21, 8:53 am

another great review, so proud of u x

Aiden

31/8/21, 3:24 am

Great review!

tamara

25/8/21, 11:55 am

yay!!! i love this review 🤍

tamara

12/8/21, 11:55 am

yay another great review!!! i love it!!!

tamara!!!

5/8/21, 9:00 am

a very thoughtful and great review!!!

tamara

31/7/21, 12:55 am

such a good review!!!

Taylah

31/7/21, 12:53 am

God I have been waiting on this review since I first watched Inside and you put it in words perfectly! (I personally would've rated it a 10/10) This review and this special are both amazing!! love love LOVE it!!

tamara

27/7/21, 8:56 am

yay!!! love olivia and this review!!!🤍

Taylah

27/7/21, 6:40 am

Love your reviews! Keep em coming