DARKSIDE

Darkside by Michael Withers

FORTUNE SOUND CLUB, JANUARY 21, 2014

Well, they’re called Darkside for a reason. Shortly before the duo of producer Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington arrived up onstage at Fortune, a smoke machine belched out a thick cloud of smoke, meaning that the pair were initially completely obscured.

Cocooned in blackness, the twosome opened with ambient drones and sparse, echoing tones. It was at least 10 minutes of this before Jarr, who was hunched over a table with a laptop and samplers, dropped the beat. The pulsing, four-on-the-floor rhythm was so loud that it rumbled the floor and the tightly packed fans whooped and began dancing.

Jaar could have kept this going for the entire show and the audience would have been delighted, but instead he eased off on the low end and the arrangement eventually eased backed into quiet ambience. This was a pattern that was repeated itself throughout the night, as songs would ebb and flow, keeping the dancers energized and always wanting more. Occasionally, Jaar would move over to his microphone, switching between a haunted falsetto and a low, husky croon.

Alongside him, Harrington played along on a hollow-body electric guitar, peppering the songs with echoing textures and palm muted funk licks. He didn’t shy away from schlock, particularly when he fired off a few Dire Straits-style licks during “Paper Trails.” It sounded a bit like Jaar jamming with my dad but, bizarrely, the combination of tasteful synths and cornball guitar solos was a natural fit.

Such contradictions are part and parcel with Jaar and Harrington. After all, how many other dance duos can get away with spending most of the night playing mellow drones and still manage deliver a thrilling set?

By Ted Caan
Photo by Michael Withers

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