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Darkside at Terminal 5

by Brian Stollery on February 11, 2014

Photo by Avery Fletcher


Terminal 5

New York, N.Y.

February 8

When Darkside took the stage at Terminal 5 on Saturday shortly after 10 p.m., they greeted the audience with a wash of white noise, a pattern of glowing red and yellow synthesizer lights and a swelling cloud of fog. The sound bubbled and churned to create a murky sonic wash, dotted with abstract guitar riffs, which enveloped every corner of the 3,000 capacity New York City venue. The texture continued to build for over 12 minutes of anticipation before yielding to a commanding trance beat over a knee-buckling bass tone, while the crowd became one unit, all synced and grooving to a shared wavelength, hypnotized by a colossal wall of electronic sound.

Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington, illuminated by a dim backlight, then gradually made their way through extended cuts from their 2011 self-titled EP, their acclaimed full length 2013 record, Psychic, and several other songs. Their celestial soundscapes had a distinctly American funk undercurrent with Nile Rodgers-esque guitar bursts via Harrington. The guitarist has clearly taken cues from the Rodgers' style, as evidenced by his dark disco licks on the band's Daftside album, a front-to-back album of twisted, barely recognizable, industrial remixes of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. Occasionally and deliberately, Jaar would add arcane lyrics in his deep, haunting voice, such as during “Paper Trails,” where he sang, “Better go back, rhythm inside, better go back, here inside.” His distant baritone reminded one of The National’s Matt Berninger while his cryptic lyrics explored a personal past, and the ever-changing global, social, and political future.

Visualization duties fell to Children of the Light, a collaboration by Amsterdam visual artists Christopher Gabriel and Arnout Hulskamp, who manipulated colored light, fog, and a giant, twirling, circular mirror above the stage. This highlighted the metaphor of the abstract performance: a reflection of past influences with a personal spin all its own.

Harrington and Jaar engage in a textural discourse; a dialogue that is nuanced and never repetitive, not unlike the interplay between David Gilmore and Roger Waters, or Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh. Their music is similarly psychedelic akin to Floyd’s classic album that may or may not be alluded to in their name. The music also evokes the dark side of the Force created by George Lucas in his Star Wars films (The Daftside album cover features Darth Vader and Yoda).

Darkside, a just-over-three-year-old band, is a breath of fresh air in an age of gaudy EDM and its garish, hedonistic trimmings. There's no pomp, no circumstance, no molly endorsements, and it's never over-awed or over-congratulated by itself. It's dark and it's weird. It's unique and intelligent.

Authors: Brian Stollery