Dave Harrington Turns Jazz Know-How Into Space-Rock Techno

Nicolas Jaar’s dance beats open up guitar possibilities for Darkside’s other half

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WHO: A 28-year-old guitarist who grew up in Morningside Heights on New York's Upper West Side, Dave Harrington is dance-music wunderkind Nicolas Jaar's partner in the duo Darkside. The two knew each other only in passing before a mutual friend recommended Harrington audition for Jaar, who was putting together a band to promote his 2011 debut, Space Is Only Noise. "We were touring for two years," says Harrington. "In doing that we developed this language." That shared tongue became the basis of Darkside's lengthy, moody, instrumental space rock jams, which suggest equal parts Pink Floyd, Can and Richie Hawtin. (Above, watch an exclusive, in-depth video in which Harrington explains his influences and technique up close.)

HE'S GOT DEFUNKT: Though Harrington plays muscular, arcing lines in Darkside, his initial influences were a lot knottier. "I grew up in a house where jazz was the musical language," he remembers. Harrington started out as a jazz bassist, taking lessons at the Harlem School of the Arts from Kelvin Bell of Eighties downtown favorites Defunkt and former Ornette Coleman and Marc Ribot sideman Brad Jones. "They didn't want to tour all the time, so they taught lessons," explains Harrington. "They were really on the fringes of some weird fucking music. That really became a musical community for me. I'm very lucky."

ACCELERATED METABOLISM: Before working with Jaar, says Harrington, "I really didn't know anything about techno or house music, beyond some Thomas Bangalter soundtracks. It was a crash course, a whole education." It has, he says, shifted "the whole structure of the way I think about music. The rate of turnover is unlike anything I've encountered in any other music. It's ouroboros-like, always digesting itself and spitting something back out."

BLUNT INSTRUMENT: Harrington's non-guitar background, he says, gives him a certain freedom in his playing. "It's not a precious instrument to me," he says. "On a technical level you can be very precise and it can be sharp, and it can also be blunt. I think about texture and rhythm and timbre before anything else. There's a sense that Nico can coax any texture he wants. I turn to the textural potential of the guitar to try and meet that." They're also constantly reworking the set list; at a recent festival show in Lyon, France, they made a medley of two Darkside tracks, "Metatron" and "Heart." "They're in the same key, so it works," he says. "Nico and I just had one of those great telekinesis moments — floating around in this weird limbo of being in between two songs we'd never done before like that. That was really exciting."