REVIEW: Nicolas Jaar – The three sides of Audrey / No one is looking at U

It seems like an awfully long time ago that Messrs. Pseudo and Nym came across Nicolas Jaar in a curious speakeasy on Paris’s Left Bank. But ever since first hearing ‘The Ego’, they have followed him with interest. By that time ‘Mi Mujur’ had begun its shuffle around Europe. Soon his infamous 2013 Boiler Room set, featuring live analogue performed by a ghetto blaster, brought him to a wider audience. And his alternative soundtrack for The Colour of Pomegranates released earlier this year is nothing if not ambitious. Yet his other releases and experiments never quite matched the potential of those early forays, the brilliant glitch beat of The Ego and the folksy elegance of Mi Mujur. Until now, that is.

The three sides of Audrey / No one is looking at U’ is not an easy listen. No ambient release ever is. Best described as a fifteen-minute tone poem of sound, it is all but impossible to listen to on headphones, let alone stroll into work to. In fact, the only way Monsieur Nym could listen to it was in a darkened room with a cold towel over his head. It is music for wine-dark contemplation, music that swallows rooms and confounds expectations. All of which means it is jolly hard to describe.

The calling of digital whales through an interstellar soundscape. Siren sounds drowning amid a wash of analogue and glitch. Discordant hits and half-heard vocals. As if Nicholas Jaar had somehow managed to capture the universe tuning, some strange celestial orchestra warming up for another day’s performance. Then, finally, a tribal drumbeat begins and the piece continues, waves of ambient sound breaking into beautiful fragments of music, rare crescendos of beat and harmony. Fleeting. Illusory. Haunting.

The rhythms are as complex as the resolutions are sumptuous. There are hints of Trentemøller, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, even Efterklang. But the sum is as unique as the ebb and flow is sublime. Monsieur Pseudo calls it tonal ambient. Nym thinks it might be school of Jon Hopkins. Nicolas Jaar apparently calls it ‘Blue Wave’. In truth, it transcends genre.

Only one question remains: what does an artist do when he produces his masterpiece at the age of 25? Pseudo and Nym eagerly await the answer.

Words by Messrs. Pseudo and Nym