Nicolas Jaar and Joshua Light Show’s performance at Warwick Arts Centre was as different from a regular gig as today’s society is from the world the Joshua Light Show originally sprang from. Their intense, psychedelic visual light explosions once created moody, druggy atmospheres for 60s legends such as The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and The Doors but here were transported to the unusually respectable surroundings of Butterworth Hall.
This translation took nothing away from the act. Seated in the darkened auditorium as initial swirlings of bold, bright colour drifted in and out of focus on an enormous screen covering the whole back wall of the stage, with only the harsh silhouettes of three keyboards and two men to disrupt its all-encompassing glow, the viewer was transported far away from Coventry before a sound had been made.
The first rumblings of a keyboard groan signalled the arrival of Nicolas Jaar, or more accurately Darkside, Jaar’s new collaborative project with his guitar-playing friend Dave Harrington, and it was then that the real experience began. The duo slowly and meticulously crafted ambient sounds together, building at their own pace a blanket of noises, thuds and mutterings that only built to a real beat at least 45 minutes in, instead creating intricate, chilled soundscapes with a psychedelic leaning. Harrington’s guitar added a more organic feeling to Jaar’s signature minimal house palette, the whole performance originating from the free, improvised nature of the music which was – at least initially – quite unlike anything on Jaar’s debut, Space Is Only Noise. It sounded amazing, hypnotising and engaging the listener in a way dance music rarely manages.
The restraint of the early music was mirrored in the fantastic and mind-blowing visuals presented to the viewer’s optical receptors. Drops of pure colour appear from nowhere, seeping throughout the vibrant backdrop at will until the whole thing mutated into a shuddering, shifting polygon – an aural and visual hallucination, acid-blasted shades and trippy electronica in symbiosis, enhancing and complementing their respective sensory experiences. Several times throughout the performance it had this writer in a trance state, so totally captivated by the array of sound and sight that it is a struggle to really place anything from that moment other than the feeling that this is how art should really exist: a collaboration between creative minds to excited all of the senses, not just the ear. This duo really did pull that off for at least the first half of the show.
Jaar had to pull his signature big, slow, hypnotic beats out at some point, and when he did the crowd went wild for it. Deep house banging, a low-tempo heavy funk, propulsiveness inconceivable unless witnessed first-hand, all accompanied by more incredible patterns on the screen that grew more and more violent with the drum machine until you felt physically shaken by the sheer intensity. However, as punters rose up out of their seats to groove to the beats the all-important light show began to be obscured and the hypnotic spell was somewhat broken, dragging you out of a deep reverie and back into Warwickshire. It could not, however, banish the memory of the daydreaming meld of one of modern house’s most acclaimed talents and a real piece of art history.