As Nicolas Jaar concludes his latest tour, Husa Sounds would like to look back on his dazzling Olympia appearance last month. Quite different from his DJ sets, his live set truly allow for glimpses into the depth of his creativity, showcasing his captivating capacities as a sonic and visual architect.
It all started with a brief moment suspended in time and space, carefully crafted to warm up one of this year’s most exhilarating shows. There stood an ordinary statue in his place – opening British techno artist Actress – amidst an assortment of synthesizers, mixers, microphones, and amplifiers. The wisely lit stage allowed the audience to ease themselves into what was to be a truly spectral night, as the presence of a statue figure as an opener hollowed out a performance space for Jaar’s one man show.
We were then captured by a clustered tableau of sound and color as Jaar took to the stage, dispatching experimental soundscapes and gradually evolving into a sexy live rendition of his world-renown sound. If you had stood in attendance waiting to be satiated in anticipation of drops breaks and build ups, you would have been surely disappointed. Nevertheless, no one in that audience could resist the lush vibe Jaar continually gave the Théatre Olympia. He works to push and absolve boundaries, guiding the audience into a no man’s land filled by his own creative audiovisual constructions and projections.
Incandescent and precise, Jaar’s sound inhaled and exhaled with little predictability, his instrumentation palette flowing from future-jazz piano to atmospheric synth to haunting saxophone. The contemporary electronic music artist is here to play with our perceptions, whether sensory, spatial or temporal.
A traditional musical linearity isn’t something one should expect walking into a Jaar show. Rather, he builds his performance linearity with a dazzling succession of colours that hint at chronology. The minimalist progression carries a storytelling quality, mirroring a range of emotions as well as passing of time. His soundscape is built contrasting episodes of glitchy jazz constructions, ambient sonic bursts and magnetic melodies.
A smoky stage enveloped Jaar’s eerily solar figure while he took his time to rise within a sprawling experimental prologue, featuring synth chops, piano screeches and black and white shadow play. Then came a bold sensual red as he progressively graced an anticipating audience with brushes of his trademark latin house tones, culminating in the wonderful No. The juxtaposition of progressive cumbia and flamenco grooves, an opaque red stretching all the way to the back of the theater and a frenzied crowd made for quite a passion-filled environment.
Red bled onto orange and yellow, complementing Jaar’s silhouette with warm tones. His electro-acoustic screeches cultivate disorientation and through their piecing nature, force continual alertness of the listener; higher levels of attention and sensitivities are harnessed into a greater sensibility in the emotional response to his musical outbreaks.
Hues of blue and turquoise served as a backdrop to an ambient, zen fragment, welcoming melodies like Colomb. An accelerating tempo and rhythmic pulsations carried this soulful instant into a beaming purple house party, delivered to a responsive and never fully satiated audience.
This section was cut short as Jaar drove us towards a raw industrial sound, adorned by vibrant flashing white light and heavy percussions, serving us Space is Only Noise with dark echoing vocals over downtempo futuristic beats.
He finished on a midnight blue, tying up the end of the trip from dawn till dark, reappearing to gift the crowd one last time with a delightful Mi Mujer encore.
Nicolas Jaar is an unapologetic performer and an unconventional storyteller. By blasting established performance norms out the window and composing his own structure, he carves out an imaginative minimalist space where meaning is granted by the transitory energy of each respective segment. You can only really musically thrive in his presence if you depart from traditional expectations and allow yourself to be swept by his builds and bursts.
It’s always an interesting social experiment, catching bribes of conversation once reality’s lights come back on and Jaar’s sound and visuals disappear into the night. The emotional response is varied – from grippingly appreciative, to thankful for the journey, to puzzled about the experimentalism, to sometimes left with a feeling of wanting more of the bursts than the builds that cultivate them. Yet, along with the richness of his sound’s texture, this is what forms the unique aura and fascinating component of experiencing his live sets. It is, ultimately, a very individual experience of contemplation.