In an effort to dig deeper into the creative and personal influences behind new music, we recruit our favourite artists to tell us about five records that they consider "Essential" by any definition they like. This week, Dave Harrington of DARKSIDE tells us the albums that combine a variety of genres into something wholly original and vital.
DARKSIDE play the Corona Theatre in Montreal tonight (Tuesday, January 14) and Lee's Palace in Toronto tomorrow (Wednesday, January 15).
Even before they released their first EP, remixed Daft Punk or released Psychic, one of 2013's most acclaimed albums, it was established that the two men in DARKSIDE were not interested in any established definition of sonic purity. Dave Harrington was a DJing jazzhead who also played in rock bands around New York, and Nicolas Jaar seized the world in 2011 with his solo electronic album Space Is Only Noise. We knew they would bring disparate sounds together. But so what? Jumbling genre isn't exactly novel and certainly doesn't guarantee innovation. How would everything sit together? Would it challenge, beyond asking us to leave our frame of references behind?
Well, yes. Psychic creates its own world where gloom is the baseline and then tests the limits. It sails us through the fog oblivious to any comforting lighthouses or landmarks. It's a Western soundtrack for a place where west is east and the east is undiscovered. No, it's proto-ambience hitched to techno. You get it. Harrington and Jaar's technical exploration and the encyclopedic musical knowledge clear in Psychic's studio recordings is enlivened by the holy-shit moment of a golden free-association streak. During your favourite moments in the album, the real chilling ones, it feels like Harrington and Jaar are discovering them with you.
It's not just that DARKSIDE's Psychic is a genre-bending album. It's an album that also bends the creative will of the men who make it into interesting and occasionally divine new shapes. In their bio the band notes their “failure” to create a record that was either “dance” or “rock,” but what initially reads like demurring is, for someone who listens to Psychic on its own merits, more reasonably a statement of triumph.
For this reason, Dave Harrington is more than qualified to give us five of his favourite and almost indescribable albums. Like Psychic, these are genre-clashing albums that combine multiple styles to transcend all of them.
John Zorn's Electric Masada, At The Mountains of Madness (2005)
Dave Harrington: Maybe my favorite of all Zorn's records. Perfectly captures the live intensity of the Electric Masada band. Jewish melodies get worked over through noise, free-jazz, metal, exotica, and drone. Also, nothing beats a good double live-album.
Antonin Artaud, To Have Done With The Judgement of God (1948)
Primal screams, schizo-becomings, primitivistic xylophone playing - what more could you ask for?
Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame (1971)
Maybe the best “fusion” album EVER. Indian melodies and time signatures get blasted through searing, shredding jazz rock. Mind-melting.
Paul Simon, Graceland (1986)
A truly classic album of amazing grooves and pop songs [which] everyone knows. I would put it on just about any list just because of the backwards fretless bass solo.
Ornette Coleman, Dancing In Your Head (1977)
The first iteration of what would eventually become Prime Time, Ornette's electric band, but featuring the Master Musicians of Jajouka on Side 2. Ornette wails ecstatic above a sea of Moroccan reeds and drums... and just for good measure William S. Burroughs was there to hang out and supervise the proceedings.