Much of the crowd gathered outside of the Music Hall Of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY, seems to be surprised to find everyone else outside of the venue, as if no one has realized that Nicolas Jaar has already become so popular. His debut album, Space Is Only Noise, came out early this year, and by the end of the year the release of his killer two-track EP drew so much traffic to his website that it shut down the servers. His popularity grew intangibly, quietly, digitally and very quickly.
Outside of the Music Hall Jaar’s fans are trying to wrangle last-minute tickets from the swamped box office. Those arriving look a little shocked, confirming with those in line that this is the Nico Jaar show, right? Yes, it is, and it just sold out. Evidently, the name Darkside on the bill didn’t hide Jaar’s identity from his many interested followers.
The show was the world premiere of Jaar’s latest project, a collaboration with Brooklyn artist Dave Harrington. Last month the duo released the Darkside EP, a bluesy three-track puff of smoke and twanging guitars that made up most of Darkside’s setlist. Each track was drawn out and melted down into a single unending song, one that faded and built and broke into rolling waves of stomp and bass both electric and guitar.
Watching Jaar perform alongside Harrington—a music nerd-looking guy shaking his head of curls and picking out sooty, smoldering notes on the guitar and bass—makes it hard to contrive a difference between their creative processes. Jaar, like James Blake, has a way of being involved in making his music that is at once undeniable and hard to come by. He might be using a MacBook Pro as part of his music-making setup, but Jaar’s work is pulsing with human life, just as fleshy as the guitarist looking him in the face.
As is the case with Blake, Jaar’s production has the ability to manipulate the audience members and suck them into the beating heart of his thumping kick and chubby bass. With each breaking crest of sound the viewers physically rise and fall with it. They emit a collective ooh at one shift and an ahh at another, all of them pushed to the same guttural vocal responses by Darkside’s song progression. The whole time, Jaar barely looks at the crowd, preferring to stare into the screen of his laptop, at the board in front of him or at Harrington. The two don’t break once, not to chat or to separate one jammed-out song from the next. If we weren’t there, Darkside would be doing this anyway, transforming its three tracks of material into an hour of intense, rich music. The private jam sessions must be freaking ridiculous.