Old Granada Studios, Manchester
There’s a poetic kind of turmoil that manifests in Nicolas Jaar’s output. Sirens – his first LP since 2011’s Space Is Only Noise – is seared by bleakness and discontent, it’s scrutiny of Pinochet’s Chilean dictatorship and divisive, conservative policies a damning comment on current political climates. As the crowd filtered into the old television studio, that the empty stage was submerged in a heavy, smoked-out red felt no coincidence.
Jaar quietly entered and, shrouded by clean backlit lines, remained hunched over tables of hardware, building up loops of scattered drum patterns and abrasive undulating synths. Sounds contorted and mutated as vocals corrupted amongst flashes of strobes, this screeching and droning and crackling entity impressively at the command of his fingertips, keeping the crowd on their toes through this labyrinth of sound. Never one to create for the sake of comfort, Jaar’s recognition that being “close to your suffering” has creative value made for a staggering and disorientating introduction.
The anguished throaty stutters of Why Didn’t You Save Me eventually broke away from these abstractions. From then on he covered elements of 2015’s Nymphs and delved deep into his sophomore release, each track interlaced by a hybridisation of propulsive beats and more delicate keys. The force of these basslines was profound; cuts like Three Sides of Nazareth and The Three Sides of Audrey were aggrandised, and The Governor – which sounds particularly flat on record – came into a life of its own through the rawness and distortion of Jaar’s saxophone. Even in its sonically lighter moments like the Spanish-sung centrepiece No was there political gravity, which both recollected and rallied around disenfranchisement in Chile’s 1988 referendum.
Closing with Space Is Only Noise If You Can See, Jaar’s encore decisively changed tack; gospel vocals and soulful house inflections shimmered amongst prismatic multicoloured lights as he concluded with an eclectic mix of tracks, an uptempo mini-set which could have easily slotted into the confines of Store Street. A fitting end, too, for amongst all the sonic unrest were masterfully crafted textures and powerful dance-focussed rhythms which made for moments of pure elation. As the female vocal sample which opened the show declared: “This is the end. Embrace it. Enjoy it.”