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Darkside – Psychic review

When a musician decides to form a group or duo after an exciting career, or even start a side project, it’s practically impossible to not compare it to the works they’ve done. We all thought of it when you read this. Whether it’s Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters, or Thom Yorke in Atoms for Peace, the original work lingers with the artist. Nicolas Jaar was somebody I didn’t believe would survive in the destructive business of music. After a solid 2011 release with Space Is Only Noise, I did not believe it could be replicated, nor should be as it would feel too forced. Oddly enough, during this time frame Jaar was working on another project with fellow touring guitarist, Dave Herrington, and they formed the duo Darkside. Combining the electronic tension of Jaar’s studio work with the organic sounds found in the live performances, they eased their way through recording the finally released Psychic album.

I usually stay away from reading reviews until I have my own opinion, but I stumbled across a mixture of positive and negative. I feel as though this album has been misjudged by both sides. One critic said it resembled the unasked question of, “What does Nicolas Jaar and Eric Clapton sound like together?” To me, that’s a dumb comment. I can see the resemblance, but I would honestly be intrigued into what the combo would sound like. Psychic does branch off from the usual spectrum Jaar likes to take, but the eerie and tense atmosphere sticks with the listener. The monster opener, “Golden Arrow”, clocks in at just under 12 minutes. There’s more excitement in these 12 minutes than the 46 in Space Is Only Noise. While comparable, Psychic could appeal to a different audience that wasn’t content with the prior release by Jaar.

These eight tracks have their distinct moments that clearly separate one from another. The minute and a half lingerer “Sitra” is completely different from the following track, “Heart”. They fit together like a puzzle piece, but the following song reminds me of an abstract brit-pop tune. The addition to Herrington’s guitar allows for these odd, but compelling moments to flow smoothly. At the core, these are electronic dance tracks, but from the listeners perspective, they come across as very experimental at times. The structure to them, although quite simple, is hidden by Jaar’s need to keep the beat slower. Some songs, like the closer “Metatron”, fall into ambient territory. That’s the beauty of Jaar’s experimental side. He’s able to flip the listeners perspective of genres and how they fit together.

Going back to the Clapton comment, I hear it the more I listen, but still I wouldn’t consider it bad. Psychic does embrace Herrington’s bluesy guitar licks, but they don’t create a blues feel. I have more of a Jon Hopkin’s Immunity sound in mind. That’s probably due to the fact that both albums are released in 2013 and they have eight tracks. Besides that, there’s really nothing in common. What Psychic does carry that surprised me is Tom Wait vocals that aren’t sung by the man himself. At first, it was hard to swallow these raspy vocals, but the more I listen, the more I understand how it pieces together with the ‘blues’ combination.

What captures my attention with each listen is the other strange additions that Jaar included. I feel like there are many different versions of songs that were made over the two years it took to record. Should there be more guitar? Is the beat hidden enough? Do these vocals sound like noise enough? I bet none of these questions were asked, but I began to think about how these two completely different musicians came to a solid conclusion about their contributions to Psychic. Up front, it sounds like a Nicolas Jaar album. Behind the scenes it feels like Dave Herrington may have had more of an influence. There’s multiple ways to look at this album, whether you hear the blues or the electronics, they oddly fit together nicely to create an album that will be more enjoyable as time went on. Even I was hesitant with my first listen.


Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity May be Scientifically Inaccurate, but it Will Terrify You


Alfonso Cuarón's GRAVITY

When debris from a damaged satellite destroys the space shuttle, what’s left of the crew must fight for survival.

Gravity is the 2013 film directed by Alfonso Cuarón starring Sandra Bullock as bio-medical engineer, Dr. Ryan Stone, and George Clooney as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski.

I feel most reviews of Alfonso Cuarón’s science fiction horror film Gravity should come with a set of warnings.  First, the camera moves in (what feels like) fluid 3D space, making it the perfect film to see in IMAX 3D – even if you hate 3D.  The camerawork will make some of you absolutely, gut-blowingly sick so bare that in mind when choosing a seat.  Second, there are scientific inaccuracies scattered throughout the film.  Some of you will pick up on them and be terribly put out until, that is, you realize you are watching one of Sandra Bullock’s finest performances.  Ever.  She will blow you away.  If we don’t see an Oscar nod for this performance I’d be surprised.

Alfonso Cuarón's GRAVITYWhen I left the theater after having survived Gravity, I was shaking and nauseated.  I’m not ashamed to admit I was shaken, emotionally.  For 90 minutes, as an audience member, you are going to have a front row seat into one of the most physical movie going experiences you are probably ever going to have.  I suggest that, as I did, you embrace it wholeheartedly, and do whatever you can to enjoy it.

You don’t need me to echo what every other reviewer, critic, co-worker, and stranger on the street will readily offer – but I will.  Gravity is a visually stunning, emotionally tense, action-packed, triumph.  But I will go a step further.  Gravity is also a mainstream horror film packaged as a sci-fi fantasy.  And while no one is talking about it, there’s no avoiding the truth.  Sandra Bullock andAlfonso Cuarón's GRAVITY George Clooney just starred in one of the largest horror films in modern history.

With an estimated production budget of $100M and set to break $50M on opening weekend, Gravity is being overwhelmingly positively received.  But how many of those filmgoers would be shelling out opening weekend dollars on a horror film starring Bullock and Clooney?  Okay, okay.  A contingent.  Me, for instance.  But, I’ve been a space nerd since the ’80s and a Bullock fan since The Net, it wasn’t going to take much to get me in a seat.

So, why is Gravity a horror film and does it matter?

Alfonso Cuarón's GRAVITY

The debate is always lively and endlessly enlightening but there is usually one element upon which we can agree – horror films want to make you feel.  Typically, the feelings are negative and filmmakers prey on your primal fears to wretch those feelings out of you.  A majority of horror films in the last, oh say 3 decades, have centered on the supernatural, paranormal, or undead as a catalyst to make those feelings surface.  So, it’s no surprise it’s going to take some convincing to sell Gravity as a horror film.

In a sci-fi horror film, the intruder or catalyst can also be an unwanted event – it doesn’t have to be a creature or virus or the like.  In Gravity, you’re going to have unwanted events thrown atAlfonso Cuarón's GRAVITY you so often you’re going to find yourself physically (and emotionally) exhausted by film’s end.  I haven’t been so scared in theater since I realized (spoiler alert!) Santa Claus wasn’t real and we all die.

But, why does it matter what genre Gravity fits into?

It matters.  It matters because, for many the horror genre seen as frivolous and, as a result, not taken seriously.  Its storytelling value is underestimated, even denied.  It’s a genre where actor and actresses cut their teeth, not arrive – like Bullock – with raw, pitch perfect intensity at the height of their game.  It’s a genre for teenagers, not adults.

To be taken seriously, horror films like Gravity need to be seen for what they are.  Sure, Gravity is a science-fiction.  Sure, Gravity is a thriller.  Sure, Gravity is a drama, fantasy, And yes, Gravity is a horror film.  It is a horror film of the first degree and it is a masterpiece.

What about the rest of you?  Would you have gone (or will you go) to see Gravity if the trailer suggested you were about to see a full-on horror film of epic proportions?

Official Trailer:

Alternate Trailer – Drifting:

Sandra Bullock on Gravity:

Cast & Crew Talk about Gravity:

Official site: Gravity

Grab the Amazing Soundtrack by Steven Price for Gravity

Alfonso Cuarón's GRAVITY

Checkout this brilliantly directed short ROBBIE created with actual NASA footage

Jeffrey Morris’ Daedalus Series: Changing the culture of science fiction

Writer, artist, and creator of, Jeffrey Morris has developed something I believe to be truly unique in the graphic novel and science fiction industry.  Instead of exhibiting a world sometimes unreachable in our dreams of future space exploration, Mr. Morris has teamed up with not only top-notch illustrators and writers, but, also scientists and engineers to create a plausible and possible frontier for us to explore within the pages of his new, Daedalus, series.  A goal of his is to make a future that children in today’s world can look forward to and aspire to be involved in, turning sci-fi on its head to reveal that our dreams are within our grasps.  With the projects that NASA and even independent contractors are involved in currently, the timing for us to enjoy the work that FutureDude Comics is producing is perfect.

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