Published Nov 11, 2016Walking into the Danforth Music Hall, it was difficult to discern what the curated music was over the amount of clamour in the room — the show was sold out, and it showed. The chatter of all the numerous bodies in the room overtook the music, though that was to be expected in the highly anticipated return of Nicolas Jaar.
Jaar's affinity for juxtaposing ambient static with Latin rhythms has matured into an exhibition of the sumptuous, unrestrained facets of dance music. Though patrons were naturally most receptive to the drums that perforated the atmospherics of his set, Jaar maintained a great handle on pacing, seamlessly oscillating between the fragility of his introspectively-leaning compositions and the high-impact dance floor-ready tracks.
No matter how often his set cacophonously veered towards the sonically strange, his performance never alienated. The set list, notably featuring "Nymphs I" and "II" and "No," had an affective quality to its orchestration, making the performance feel personal. Jaar made masterful use of his modular synthesizer, though the laptop remained a feature of his performance as he interspersed the memorable centrepieces from his now-expansive discography.
The performance was, in particular, a testament to Jaar's sophisticated taste, as he wove his multi-genre compositions — from the Latin-tinged rhythms of Sirens to the more abstract pieces from records like Space Is Only Noise or Pomegranates — together, expressive a multitude of sincere emotions and employing ambience to subvert clubgoers' expectations.
The two-hour set was a showcase of the multi-instrumentalist's ability to guide a crowd through ambience, electronic impressionism and analog techno. Just a man and his modular — with the occasional cameo of a saxophone, or a keyboard as flourish — the mesmerizing symphony was seemingly determined to repurpose the rave. Jaar tried to sign off from the stage with a modest saxophone solo, meekly bidding the audience farewell, but he hadn't quite walked off the stage before raucous demands for more swelled, and overtook the cavernous space.