The BRAG’s resident dance expert Chris Honnery is currently checking out the scene in Europe. Here’s a review from abroad, at London’s renowned Fabric on Monday October 7.
American-Chilean wunderkind Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington, collectively Darkside, stand facing each other, side-on to the audience and bathed in the murky red and blue lights of iconic London venue Fabric nightclub. While I’d previously seen the pair perform at the Sydney festival earlier this year, the crowd’s mood on that occasion did not reach the levels of the vociferous cheering that greeted the duo’s arrival on stage tonight. This can perhaps be attributed to the fact that this sold-out performance coincides with the release of Darkside’s much anticipated-debut album Psychic.
The cheers gradually fade as the muffled hissing of a synthesiser signifies the beginning of a ninety-minute concoction of soundscapes that at various times evoke the likes of Trentemøller and Pink Floyd (Darkside of the Moon anyone?). Jaar’s setup comprises his laptop and multiple mixers, but he also plays piano and sings throughout the show when not furiously manipulating the mixer. Psychic tracks such as ‘Heart’ translate particularly well to the live setting, as Jaar’s cosmic synths duel with Harrington’s bluesy guitar interludes, while Nico’s vocals hover lower in the mix in the same way that they do on many of his productions. Elements of the songs are bolstered for the live setting – the bassline and beat on ‘Paper Trails’ flirts with the sounds one would expect to flow from Fabric’s fabled soundsystem on any given Sunday. In general though, this is a gig to sway – rather than dance – to, oozing atmosphere and driven by the duo’s supreme sense of tempo and intuition.
Watching and listening to Jaar and Harrington riff off each another, Darkside’s set has the feel of an extended jam session with heightened intensity, as both performers extemporise and appear to seek out and refine new variations of each track as they go along. The duo’s languid musicianship exemplifies how subtle variations can be just as effective as booming crescendos – as Lost Highway ‘mystery man’ Robert Blake once elucidated, “don’t give it to the audience; leave it to the audience”. On this occasion, the audience leaves Fabric content that the immense hype that surrounds Darkside is very much justified.
BY CHRIS HONNERY