Buzz - By Volume

...was fond of your writing, it allowed me to see into you... The Hotelier - Discomfort Revisited


Nicolas Jaar/Joshua Light Show Live Author: on October 9, 2013
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To say there was a buzz, formed from intrigue at least as much as excitement, about London’s Barbican Centre would be a slight understatement. Indeed, the one trait concurrent in Nicolas Jaar’s activities is a knack for subverting that which is expected from him. The Chilean-American’s performance comes off the back of one of 2011’s best albums, one of electronic music’s best live acts in recent years and the resurfacing of his Darkside project with touring partner Dave Harrington. The expectations were justifiably high, though perhaps the real headline act for the night was The Joshua Light Show. Created by Joshua White, the liquid light show operated by a team of around eight or so has evolved from its psychedelic upbringing in the 1960s and ’70s to sparring with music that had the potential to go in any direction. Layers of different liquid substances would move reacting to heat, quickly transforming cosmic imagery into anatomical animations seamlessly. The physical, extra-dimensional and deceptively real visuals were a fantastic accompaniment that existed to complement –- if not surpass -– their soundtrack as opposed to just serving the purpose of keeping the crowd’s senses occupied.

Harrington and Jaar

Harrington and Jaar

The Joshua Light Show were on from the start, let loose over Evian Christ’s increasingly-provoking undercard set. Ethereal ambience with smatterings of Christ’s Soviet signal-sampling Duga-3 project were twisted into the likes of “MYD” and “Fuck It None of Ya’ll Don’t Rap” from his Kings and Them breakthrough hip-hop deconstruction. He touched on his contributions to Yeezus as Bon Iver crooned words like, “Starfucker”, to a tentatively-seated audience. The genius, that I admit did come unanticipated, was how Evian Christ only dipped into these selections, playing them briefly, as if he was holding himself back from bouncing into beats completely unrestrained. I felt this approach was suitable, and he upped the gears gradually, eventually ramping into beats that sounded like half-step footwork, bamboozling all bystanders into somewhere between dumbstruck and awestruck.

Nico's elaborate visuals.

The Joshua Light Show’s elaborate visuals.

A collection of tools stood around the centre-back of the stage space – an arrangement of controllers, a piano, a vibraphone and a few others from Nicolas Jaar’s vast instrument proficiency locker. Sure, the one-man-band’s composure was admirable, swapping between his characteristically deep vocals and toys to keep his hands busy, however it soon became clear that the focus merely needed to be on the sonics, not the spectacle – as that was the Joshua Light Show’s territory. What Jaar did with his music was impressive, and perhaps challenging of the audience’s patience. Initially, sporadic elements clustered together with little melody, yet it soon became clear Jaar was actually recreating samples used in the intro to 2011’s Space Is Only Noise If You Can See. Jaar was briefly joined by a quartet of choir singers, as he defragmented and re-sketched his works, ending with an extended reinterpretation of “Too Many Kids Finding Rain In The Dust”. Spectators were enchanted for the most part, attentions slightly waning during the beatless periods, waking themselves up with cheers whenever a kick came in. People were unsure whether to applaud, with no clear ending or beginning to tracks in Jaar’s cohesive set, deciding to clap to show appreciation and then immediately regretting it.

This is Jaar’s theme, his main strength and asset: Instead of simply flinging genres together, drenching house with blues and the experimental, he transcribes that feeling of existing between lines exceptionally. The seated audience longed to stand, yet it didn’t feel right. The mind became lost in the reflective grooves as the body lusted for a chance to dance, whilst knowing the tempo was too slow. Reappearing for an encore with Dave Harrington on the guitar, the pair were met with a cry from a woman – “We want to dance!” Their Darkside material seemed to pass the test, with the most vocal-driven cut from the new record, “Paper Trails”, impressing enough to lift the Barbican off its feet. It ended with Jaar’s “Space Is Only Noise” reworked and decorated with freewheeling licks of blues guitar from Harrington. With a little (or a lot of) help from his friends, Nicolas Jaar once again managed to cover all bases – as well as those nooks and crannies in-between.

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