Nicolas Jaar isn’t the type to keep with conventions. With the release of Sirens this past September, he further blurred the line between electronic dance and experimental music, filling its 41-minutes with rich, avant-garde textures. Translating Jaar’s chilling atmosphere to a live setting is a difficult feat, but back-lit by incandescent strobe lights, Jaar emerged Saturday at the UC Theatre as a triumphant mad scientist, synthesizing a near perfect formula of transience and pleasure.
“Killing Time” started off the set with an ethereal mélange of noise, suitable for any hallucinatory trip. Gradually, Jaar layered in sounds, twisting knobs and gauges determinedly. Echoes of shattering glass reverberated across the great hall, as people gazed at the DJ perched behind his soundboard like a prophet. As the simple chords of the piano progressed, a downbeat percussion arose allowing people to sway along to its measured beat.
Slowly, a pattern developed as songs were built up ploddingly and then released into an ecstasy of rhythm.
All the while, the multifaceted Jaar played a game of musical chairs, dashing from instrument to instrument during the show. Included in his arsenal were two keyboards, with keys he tapped whenever he deemed it necessary. He picked up a microphone during “Three Sides of Nazareth,” sporting a soft and dissonant voice. A lone sax sat dormant throughout the set, finally surfacing at the end of “The Governor,” with Jaar blowing into the mouthpiece with sharp, brittle bursts.
Meanwhile, people in the crowd were pulsating with the fast beats, and chilled during the moments where Jaar indulged his dreamier half. Side by side, Bob the Builder danced with a Batman wearing a beanie in celebration of Halloween weekend.
Eventually, Jaar exited the stage after saying a brief “thank you,” returning after to play an encore with a song completely absent of percussion. Not everyone was so keen on Jaar’s mix however. During this first encore, an older mustached man, vaping his e-juice shouted to me, “You know I’m a big fan of Nicolas Jaar’s exploration, but MAN… it’s Saturday…it’s Halloween weekened…he’s got to bring it home.”
But bring it home he did, as the second encore featured a funky remix, filled with auto tuned voices and a plethora of bongo drums. And as the bright lights flashed and flared, Jaar shimmied with the audience. Accomplished, he left the stage after a single wave.
Written by Brian Grossman
Photos by Mateo Savala