Darkside – Spiral

Nicolás Jaar and Dave Harrington present a masterclass in the art of precision and withholding with their second Darkside album

Album Review by Tony Inglis | 20 Jul 2021
  • Darkside – Spiral
Album title: Spiral
Artist: Darkside
Label: Matador
Release date: 23 Jul

Nicolás Jaar refers to Darkside as a "third being" which manifests in the room when the Chilean-American experimental producer hooks up with improvisational guitarist Dave Harrington to jam. It would take some kind of metaphysical summoning power to execute the unfathomable fusion of Jaar’s gurgling, shimmering electronics and Harrington’s freeform, pretty, playing into proggy, funky rock music, as occurred on the duo’s 2013 album Psychic.

That was a record armed to the teeth with the element of surprise, constantly shifting, leaving the listener flat-footed, grooves and riffs boiling over and bundling on top of one another. Spiral is a more settled affair. Jaar and Harrington lean into rhythm and repetition more here, not willing to pull out the same number of jump scares just for the sake of it, a masterclass in the art of precision and withholding – Inside Is Out There is eight-and-a-half minutes of build before a six-and-a-half minute closer which has plenty of build itself.

So when they do flip the switch, the album explodes. Harrington’s Knopfler-esque tone could be described as dependable, but here he takes the starring role. The piercing solo capping off Only Young is blockbuster.

Compared to Jaar’s pair of 2020 albums – challenging, political, driven by narrative if not narration – this all seems so conventional. But even that is thrilling when done this well.

Listen to: The Limit, I’m the Echo, Only Young