MORDHAU

Nicolas Jaar @ Barbican Hall, London

When I listened to Space Is Only Noise for the first time back in early 2011, it was clear I stumbled upon a work of exceptional quality. The complexity and the sheer melancholy the album provoked were not something you would expect from an artist that only turned 21 just weeks before the release of his first full length album.

Nicolas Jaar’s performance in London promised to bring much more to the table than just great music - the visuals would be delivered by the Joshua Light Show, pioneers in the psychedelic art scene that earned their stripes in the late sixties performing live shows with bands like Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane.

The backdrop for the concert was the Barbican Hall, a massive, Brutalist style edifice dating back from the 1980’s. The night opened with Evian Christ, a 24 year old UK based producer who released his first record under Tri Angle records in 2011 and worked with Kanye West on his latest Yeezus album. What started out with ethereal sounds layered with heavy drones, exploded into an experimental blend of trap snares and hi-hats, mixed with deep bass and hip-hop vocals. Evian him himself was pretty stoic throughout the whole set, focusing mainly on hitting drum pads and twiddling knobs. You could feel the energy rubbing off on the seated audience, and he was awarded with a grand round of applause after he swiftly put on his jacket and left the stage after 30 minutes.

After a short break the concert hall was filled to the brim and you could feel the theatre buzzing with anticipation. As the lights dimmed and Jaar took the stage, a young girl joined him and stared silently into the crowd, uttered the word ‘Mum’ a couple of times into a lonely microphone and promptly left the stage. Jaar opened his performance with subtle sound textures that gradually doom up in front of you only to fade away again, intricately interwoven with hypnotic melodies and his signature aquatic sounds from the track Être. As the opening sounds matured into the actual opening track, Jaar was joined again on stage by a choir of 4 girls, whose soprano voices evoked a certain feeling of eeriness.

Shrouded in darkness with only a relatively motionless silhouette to be seen, Jaar continued his mesmerising show while the visuals of Joshua Light Show elevated the whole show to a truly audiovisual spectacle. There was something very familiar about the images that the analog projection techniques conjured up. Grainy textures and restlessly moving liquids, blending together with drops of ink and reflections of crystals, all came together in incredible synesthesia with the music.

As the show progressed, so did Jaar’s ardor and he soon found himself tapping his feet and singing Too many kids finding rain in the dust after which the microphone gave way to the xylophone. The charismatic vocals added an extra warm layer of sound, but were by times a tad too quiet and overall, too sparse.

For the final stretch of his show, he was joined on-stage by Dave Harrington - his significant other in the DARKSIDE project. By this time, Jaar’s enthusiasm was almost palpable and after a short jam, Harrington played the first notes to the track Space is only noise after which Jaar joined in on the vocals and the song soon came to a resplendent climax, during which the audience had a progressively harder time staying seated. The psychedelic, pink floydian guitar sounds of Harrington perfectly complemented the whole experience. By the time the lights went on and the encore had finished, the whole crowd was on their feet, some dancing, some applauding, but all of them smiling.