Are Dave Harrington and John Frusciante the same person?

That’s a complement toward Harrington, not some sort of Red Hot Chili Peppers related jab. Frusciante in his interim and post-RHCP days made a cavalcade of strange, warped guitar sounds. He always seemed to be longing for a day where the six-string was considered primarily a tool of jazz or electronic music, rather than stomping rock ’n’ roll. Harrington is decidedly cut from the same cloth. The New York based guitarist played with a handful of well-established indie rock bands before combining forces with fellow Brown graduate Nicolas Jaar to make Darkside a deeply, wonderfully psychedelic project that purposefully toyed with the space between electronics, rock, jazz and chamber music.

Though Darkside broke up only after one album and a Daft Punk dedication, Harrington seemed deeply energized by his dueling, musical combat with Jaar. He released his first Dave Harrington Group album in 2016 and Pure Imagination, No Country now appears as a more fully formed vision of his genre-bending style.

Harrington truly feels like a bandleader here, rather than a solo project surrounded by extras on the instruments. His guitar often shepherds other sounds to the center, his guitar going from dueting with a keyboard to swirling alongside the bass and then closing with a squall of ambiance. The music surrounding him his just as malleable, flipping from late-night jazz meditations (“Slides Redux” complete with a banging bassline), art-rock excursions (“Neoarctic Organs”) and unnerving drone (“No Country”). The most impressive feat Pure Imagination pulls off is a sense of cohesion, even with so many sounds being thrown at the wall. Harrington’s guitar work has a singular emotional drive that makes everything, even among the crazed sections of noise, recognizable. But those long stretches of sheer noise can be frustrating. The album’s centerpiece, the 11 minute long “Patch One,” has far too much static covering otherwise interesting and propelling passages. And, in comparison to the high flying jazz of “Then I Woke Up,” those more ambient moments can’t help but feel sleepy. Because on the speedy giddiness that infects “Then I Woke Up,” Harrington sounds like he’s having a goddamn blast.

And that’s where Pure Imagination, No Country is at its best. You can tell that whenever that bubbling bassline from “Slides Redux” popped up in a jam session, everyone in the room was beaming. The closing “Pure Imagination” is, yup, from Willy Wonka. And despite a guitar tone that owes something to Radiohead’s chilling “Hunting Bears” it’s a fuzzy, welcoming little version. It’s obvious from the first cacophonous notes of Pure Imagination that Harrington feels a radiating joy from all of this cathartic noise. If he keeps indulging on the peppier side, and really allows his smile to become blinding, he’ll have something undeniable on his hands. So, no, Harrington and Frusciante aren’t the same person. But they do hold the same reverence for guitar and an overwhelming belief that enjoyment and fun can, and should, be held in the world of jazz.

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