From pilotless killing machines to the surveillance state realized, there is no shortage of topical political source material for artists engaging with technology, making the biggest electronic music trend of 2013 all the more puzzling. With greater possibilities for the radicalization of computer software and synthesizers than ever before, the most successful electronic acts chose instead to retreat into the mundane. Daft Punk released “Random Access Memories” to widespread commercial acclaim, a feel-good disco retread blessed by a resurgent Nile Rodgers; leaving the remaining widespread critical acclaim for Darkside, featuring much-hyped wunderkind Nicolas Jaar’s production and Dave Harrington’s noodling guitar. The duo did their best to invert the trend by altering the mood, but since the yesteryear-leaning technique remained consistent across their complete album remix of “Random Access Memories,” expectations for their debut full-length were tempered. Upon arrival, the sound of “Psychic” proved elusive. Listen with the wrong speakers or have it on in the background and the experience evokes the stiffness of an over-stylized restaurant, or worse, mall music for clothes shopping. All things being equal, the effort is an ode to subtlety, with live instrumentation in perfect harmony with pre-programmed sounds, and mixing done with an ear for exquisite detail that exploits big speakers and earbud headphones alike. There is a richness and warmth to the music that represents a new range for Jaar, who with the aid of Harrington, makes playful use of the R&B/dubstep tropes at the fore of popular electronic experimentation. Throw it on with the right crowd and witness the most low-pulse dance party possible. Maybe that’s the political prescience that Darkside and Daft Punk represent. Technology’s pervasive attributes didn’t ingrain themselves by knocking on the front door; their ubiquity stems from a sublime marketability with a seduction all its own. (Kenneth Preski)
January 17 at Metro, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-4140. 8pm. $19. 18+.