Nicolas Jaar is one of those young musicians who you can already imagine in 10, 15, 20 years as being an staple who is looked up to by musicians who are young when he is older. Not only did his most recent album, Space is Only Noise, reflect a seeping depth of influences, but it was incredibly mature and unwilling to follow contemporary trends. Instead, he traded in the overt and rather boring big/underground styles for only a smattering of each in the form of film samples, a clear love of repetition, a bit of dubstep here and there, and a few confrontational horns, not to mention his own deep voice echos deep and heady throughout the whole album. He’s also started releasing new tracks recently from his Darkside project with Dave Harrington, which has created the perfect slow-building storm of hype post-Space. At this year’s Decibel Festival, he was a must-see, and was joined at Showbox SoDo by visual artist Tarik Barri, Bristol producer Phaeleh (pronounced ‘fella’) and the beloved UK multi-instrumentalist duo Mount Kimbie.
Phaeleh has been playing a series of sold out or almost sold out shows across North America for his recent tour - and has been joined by vocalist Augustus Ghost, one of his seemingly never ending collaborators. As Showbox SODO was slowly filling up (though remained surprisingly less full than expected) they filled the space with the wintery delicate electronic hum. Ghost’s vocals swirled mystically while the gentle water of beats flowed calmly and continually throughout.
In their review of Mount Kimbie‘s most recent album Cold Spring Fault Less Youth Pitchfork points out an amazing video of Kimbie and James Blake playing back in 2010 in a room that’s so smoky you can barely make out their silhouettes. Their coverage of the duo goes back farther than that - all the way to their Maybes EP. And for good reason. Despite the smoke, all musicians in that room have become full fledged staples in any understanding of contemporary electronic music. A deep as classical in their influences, as emotive as poetry, and among the most skilled musicians making music - Mount Kimbie has continued to improve their presence and ability over these few short years. At one point during the show Kai Campos was drumming in the middle of a table, and Dominic walked around him, hit a button, and seamlessly they were suddenly playing a new song. The show began with a slideshow familiar to those who have seen them perform in the past year or so - a bunch of photos showing people in their 20s having fun all over the world. As a last note: Campos was repping LA beatmaker D33J, presumably from their show in LA last week.
I am going to preface this write-up with this: Nico Jaar did a double encore. No one wanted to leave - and as he said at the time, “I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this, but I’m going to” before starting the second encore. The show was that excellent - featuring sound assisted by Vans and spellbinding sun-filled visuals by programmer/artist Tarik Barri - that it could barely be stopped. Nico himself was absorbed, barely looking up from his computer and when he did he did so with a smile.
Mount Kimbie’s set-up was finally removed and a table with some equipment went up in the back of center stage. Slowly a screen of brilliant colors began to move slowly, and Jaar was revealed at the center - a location that Barri played with every times, sending spiraling solar flares out from the powerful center. Already excited by the earlier performances, the audience swelled forward, cell phones burst up to snap photos of the gorgeous set-up. Not one to stick to the basics - Jaar mixed older EPs in with tracks from his most recent Space is Only Noise. If he has, in the past, expressed skepticism at the ability to audiences to dance to his internalized crisp sounds, there was no showing it here. While perhaps there wasn’t much more than swaying and head bobbing, the joy was fairly unsurpassed and lead everyone to either a static unbroken stare, or a slow moving smiling dance. At the end not a single person near me moved until Jaar came back on stage, and then for his second encore those who had left tried to make their way back, or at least stopped leaving. Outside Showbox SoDo a crowd gathered - unable to collect their thoughts beyond how amazing Jaar’s set was. Crisp sound, older songs and newcomers, and three amazing UK groups as excited to see us as we were to see them, made this showcase one of the best of Decibel 2013.