DARKSIDE – Psychic

For a decade or so, the lack of new material from Jean-Michel Jarre cast a very dark shadow over the world of electronic music which seemed impossible to fill. But there were those who attempted to stand in for him, one of whom was the suspiciously similarly named Nicholas Jaar, a Chilean musician whose DARKSIDE project first appeared with their Psychic album in 2013.

To talk only about Jarre’s influence would be unfair – it’s strong, but there are many other factors at play here as well. Lead track Golden Arrow burbles along gently for over eleven minutes, bringing in ambient “found” sounds and synthetic energy from time to time. Once the rhythm finally arrives, five minutes in, you should have a clear idea of what this album’s going to be about. The delay-laden synth sounds that follow as the rhythm progresses into more of a march only serve to back up your first impressions.

The short piece Sitra, which follows, is unexciting, but leads us gradually through to Heart, which for the first time brings us a vocal, with lyrics, although they’re largely unintelligible. There’s something rather sweet about the rhythmic nature of this track, taking you back to the early 1970s somehow. Apart from the processing, the DARKSIDE project is clearly firmly rooted in the past.

Paper Trails for the first time brings us a comprehensible vocal, which, coupled with a particularly funky rhythm, makes for a great song. This is not the sort of thing that’s ever going to get a lot of radio play, but it’s fantastic nonetheless.

If this album has a low point, it’s with the next piece, The Only Shrine I’ve Seen, which while it has nothing especially wrong with it, it feels a bit pointless too somehow. But this is a fairly concise album, and before long Freak, Go Home is upon us, lifting the standards again. This is probably the best track on here, with its enormous melodic swells. It sounds a bit like the soundtrack to an advert for some kind of mood-enhancing coffee.

The gentler chimes and squawks of Greek Light follow, carrying us through to the final track, the glorious Metatron. As with much of this album, it wouldn’t necessarily be instantly accessible, but there’s something entirely pleasant about it. The melodic piano and unsettling choral pads come together rather beautifully. It’s not long before it fades away, and the album is over already.

Psychic is an excellent one-off release for DARKSIDE, and even if they never release anything else under this name, we should be grateful for this.

You can find Psychic at all major online retailers.

Advertisements

Chart for stowaways – 5 July 2014

Here are this week’s top 10 albums:

  1. William Orbit – Strange Cargo 5
  2. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
  3. William Orbit – Orbit Symphonic
  4. DARKSIDE – Psychic
  5. Jean Michel Jarre – Sessions 2000
  6. Apparat – The Devil’s Walk
  7. Erlend Øye – Unrest
  8. Honeyroot – The Sun Will Come
  9. I Monster / People Soup – I Monster Presents People Soup
  10. Deep Forest – Deep Forest

Chart for stowaways – 31 May 2014

Here are this week’s top ten albums:

  1. William Orbit – Orbit Symphonic
  2. DARKSIDE (Nicholas Jaar) – Psychic
  3. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again EP
  4. Moby – Innocents
  5. Röyksopp – Junior
  6. Dirty Vegas – Let the Night EP
  7. Enigma – MCMXC a.D.
  8. Tiga – Ciao!
  9. B.E.F. – Music of Quality & Distinction, Vol. 3 – Dark
  10. Komputer – Synthetik

Yes! That’s a new number one, finally!

Chart for stowaways – 17 May 2014

We haven’t covered the albums much in detail recently, and there still isn’t a huge amount going on over there, but here are this week’s top ten:

  1. Moby – Innocents
  2. B.E.F. – Music of Quality and Distinction, Vol. 3 – Dark
  3. DARKSIDE (Nicholas Jaar) – Psychic
  4. Dirty Vegas – Let the Night EP
  5. De La Soul – Stakes is High
  6. Tiga – Ciao!
  7. Skywatchers – The Skywatchers Handbook
  8. Soulsavers – The Light the Dead See
  9. Ladytron – 604
  10. Art of Noise – Influence

Pet Shop Boys hold onto the top spot for a second week on the singles with the Flourescent 12″ single.

Record Store Day 2013

There’s something rather exciting about Record Store Day – loads of your favourite bands start throwing out obscure releases on bizarre formats. Not downloads, but real, tangible formats.

There’s also something rather disappointing about the whole thing. Of all of the releases I’ve heard about and wanted on Record Store Day, I’ve never actually seen a single one of them. Partly because I’ve always been out of the country every year so far, but partly also because I have a sneaking suspicion that what happens is that it’s actually a day for private dealers and too-keen collectors to swamp record shops and buy all the good stuff out. Anything worth having will be up on eBay within the day. Which seems to slightly defeat the object to me.

In fact, the only release from previous years that I remember having seen is the cassette version of Goldfrapp‘s last album Head First – which is a brilliant idea, but the knowledge that I’d never actually listen to it was what stopped me from buying it at that point.

Anyway, this year’s Record Store Day is this Saturday, and I’m actually going to be in the UK this time, so we’ll see if I can keep hold of my wallet while it happens. Here are some of the highlights of the releases that I spotted:

  • Bent – From the Vaults 1998-2007 (unknown format, 500 copies)
  • Booka Shade – Black Out: White Noise EP (12″)
  • David Bowie – Drive-In Saturday Night (7″ picture disc, 3000 copies), The Stars Are Out Tonight (7″ white vinyl, 5000 copies) and 1965 (7″)
  • Calexico – Spiritoso (LP, 2200 copies)
  • CaribouStart Breaking My Heart (LP), Up in Flames (LP) and The Milk of Human Kindness (LP)
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Animal X (7″ picture disc, 2500 copies)
  • Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love (12″, 4000 copies)
  • Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know? (7″)
  • Brian EnoNicholas Jaar x Grizzly Bear (10″, 2000 copies)
  • Frankie Goes to HollywoodThe Eye Has It (7″ shaped picture disc)
  • Garbage – Because the Night (10″, 5000 copies)
  • The Human League – Don’t You Want Me (12″)
  • Inspiral Carpets – Fix Your Smile (7″)
  • Junior Boys – Even Truer Remix EP (12″, 400 copies, “regional”)
  • MGMT – Alien Days (cassette single, 2000 copies)
  • Moby feat. Mark Lanegan – The Lonely Night (7″)
  • Mike Oldfield – Theme from Tubular Bells (7″)
  • Pink Floyd – See Emily Play (7″, 5000 copies)
  • Röyksopp – Ice Machine (10″)
  • Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun (12″, 982 copies, “regional”) and Hvarf / Heim (double LP)
  • The XX – Jamie XX Edits (12″, 1600 copies)
  • Various Artists – Astralwerks 20/20 (seven 7″ box set, including rare and unreleased tracks by KraftwerkAirThe Chemical Brothers and others, 100 copies, “regional”)
  • Various Artists – Factory Records – Communications 1978-1992 (10″ or 12″ including tracks by Joy DivisionNew OrderDurutti Column and Happy Mondays, 1000 copies)
  • Various Artists – Music from the Motion Picture Drive (LP picture disc of the excellent album with tracks by Kavinsky and Cliff Martinez, 1000 copies, US only)

Which should be more than enough to keep you busy. I’ve no idea what “regional” means. Thanks to the New Vinyl blog for helping with information about the releases. The full list is here for the USA and here for the UK.

Laneway Festival 2013, Singapore

A nice surprise just a couple of weeks after arriving in South-East Asia was the arrival of the Laneway Festival last weekend in Singapore. Since practically everybody I asked seemed to be going along, and since the lineup was pretty strong, it seemed rude not to join them. The audience was largely non-Singaporean and largely the kind of people who are a bit too cool for pop, but it made for a great day out in the heat of the almost equatorial January sun.

Frustratingly the slightly shambolic queue for ticket collection left me unable to catch most of the wonderful Kings of Convenience, although the strength of their closer I’d Rather Dance with You was still notable compared to some of the bands who would follow. Another definite highlight was seeing Erlend Øye turn up at the end of the night dancing like a maniac to Gotye, but I’d really have liked to be able to say more about how good their performance was.

Minnesota’s Polica followed with an excellent set of tracks which I’m only unable to recommend since I’d never heard any of them before. Their debut album is out already and definitely seemed worth checking out, with shades of Portishead or Goldfrapp.

The slightly strange order and selection of the lineup reared its ugly head very early on as Cloud Nothings turned up and were absolutely and inconceivably dreadful. The punk / metal band screamed their way through an awful 45 minutes or so, although it’s difficult to know whether they could actually tell, given how poor their drummer seems to be at keeping time.

This seemed a good time to go and investigate what else the festival had to offer, but sadly the merchandise stall was a pretty paltry offering, and the drinks were pricey. Most disappointing was the decision to only stock Fiji water at S$5 for a tiny bottle, complete with a rather insulting message on the label about how sustainable the water was. Because of course shipping tiny bottles of water seven hours across the ocean and selling them at exorbitant prices is much better for the environment than providing, say for argument, a tap.

Fortunately Divine Fits turned up to prevent the mid-afternoon heat from making things any worse. Pleasant enough, the three-piece indie supergroup (apparently, anyway – nobody I asked seemed to have heard of any of them) worked their way through the set before passing the baton over to the much better Of Monsters and Men. Typically Icelandic (I.e. slightly bonkers) and oddly named, they were a wonderful antidote to the sun and some of the dross and dullness which had preceded them.

Japandroids, on the other hand, were a bit of a disappointment. Someone asked me beforehand whether I thought they might sing in Japanese, but sadly they turned out to be neither Japanese nor as electro as their name appeared to suggest. So another set of dull “alternative rock” followed.

The day was growing late and it had already struck most people that the set order was odd in the extreme. Removing Cloud Nothings would have been a good start, but even the bands who were there should really have been reshuffled into a more sensible order. Kings of Convenience may have seemed a nice chilled out opener, but as the most accomplished act on the bill, they really should have had higher billing, and the headline act was, as we shall see, perhaps not the best choice.

The act who followed was a pleasant surprise. Nicholas Jaar turns out to be an excellent chillout dance act with some excellent moments in his set, although sadly by this stage the sunburn and the hours spent out in the sun were starting to get to me, so I ended up sleeping through a good chunk of Kimbra‘s set. What I did see was unfortunately pretty dull. Having turned up as Cinderella, she proceeded to play tracks that largely sounded like Gwen Stefani but rockier, and sadly that’s about all there was to say.

As the sun went down behind Marina Bay Sands, Real Estate turned up with a set that was generally strong but fairly forgettable. British media favourites Alt-J followed, good and consistently interesting, but also a little underwhelming. Having walked off after a couple of minutes due to sound problems, they finally returned to finish their set, but I wonder if perhaps the audience needed something a little stronger at this point.

Fortunately, we got it. The big surprise for me was Yeasayer, whom I think I’d managed not to come across previously, and who were truly exceptional. Catchy experimental hit followed hit, and you’ll be either pleased or disappointed to hear that I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on them from the safety of this blog in the future.

Bat for Lashes was up next, and followed in style with another excellent set, although much of the audience showed their colour by remaining seated for her and then crowding en masse to the stage for the subsequent act Tame Impala.

As an act who had clearly listened to rather more Status Quo in their time than is really healthy, they were, for the most part, fairly dull, but they clearly knew what they were doing for all of that. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards was a particular highlight.

Whether because of the late night shutdown of the city’s Metro system or because people thought they were a bit too cool for the decidedly mainstream headliner who followed, it was really disappointing to see large parts of the crowd exiting at this point, leaving Gotye with slightly post-apocalyptic fields of litter for much of his audience. Perhaps choosing a headliner who had more than one hit to his name outside of Belgium and Australia might have helped.

But Gotye was, of course, excellent. Rippling with humour, great videos, a plethora of different instruments, and a huge array of great songs, it was never going to be anything else. And having long since learnt the lesson of getting his tracks in the right order, Somebody That I Used to Know was among the last. All told, his set was definitely the best of the lot, and he was entirely justified as the headliner – it’s just a shame that the crowd didn’t agree.

To my amusement, what followed was an excellent piece of organised chaos, as the crowds surged out of the site to find that all the public transport had shut down. The entire shopping centre at the Marina was suddenly filled with slightly lost music fans entering from all directions, and none of them entirely sure where they were going. Alongside them, we pushed out into the streets of Singapore and gradually dispersed into the night.

All told, Laneway was an excellent little one-day festival. It was a long day, and a hot one, with generally a good variety of bands, even if they were in an odd order. The decision to charge such high prices for drinks in such a dangerously sunny environment was a shame, but so was the rather unnecessary confiscation of umbrellas at the entrance. But those are quibbles which can easily be fixed. The music was the main thing, and I’m happy to say I discovered some great bands there, even if I was characteristically late to the party with a couple of them…

After Singapore St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was already in Auckland on Monday, and continues around Australia over the next couple of weeks, visiting Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne this weekend, and then Adelaide and Perth the following week.