I love how drugs come in all shapes and sizes. There’s always one that fits exactly what you’re trying to achieve. There is always some shortcut to the mindset you want to be in; to expand your horizon. Luckily for me, my favorite drug is quite harmless. I let Nicolas Jaar take me on rides every now and then. As with his new (free) collection of music, Pomegranates. I’m not sure exactly what it is Jaar does, but he never ceases to amaze me. Whether it’s his own stuff, the things he manage to find and put out on his label, his collaborations such as Darkside or whatever he does: it always takes me places I never thought I could go; places I never even dreamed of.
Jaar is probably the closest thing to a wizard in the world, if I am to be the judge of bestowing titles. He has a way of transforming mere sounds into music, and then deforming music into mere sounds again. There is always this battle in his music: a battle between the melody and the destruction of it; between the living and the dead. And yet it’s not so much a battle as a synergy. His play with silence is only really matched (recently) by The xx’s debut record, which blew so many minds with its empty spaces, its hollow grounds. Back then we were all used to music being more and more stuffed with, well, music – with sounds. Silence was given less room. Most bands who had otherwise used silence as a premier tool were either not around anymore (Talk Talk) or had started leaving behind silence to focus on melody and texture (Grizzly Bear). There was a gaping hole where silence used to be, and then The xx came in and took up most of that space. But the real pilgrim, to me, was Jaar with his Space is Only Noise album.
This was back when my ears were still young and impressionable (yes, I am very old now, much older than the 4-year gap) and every new record I put on, it seemed, would show me a different world; some place I had never traveled to before. Every record was a revelation to me, a new way of making music. That really is a long time ago. Now it really takes some far out shit to turn me into my younger self where I’m taken over by sheer amazement from hearing new sounds. But Nicolas Jaar constantly manages to do this to me. I should know him by now; I should be prepared for whatever trick he pulls on me; I should have figured out a long time ago, that whenever I’m hit by a lot of texture, I will be rolling around in silence in a minute; rolling around to the sound of a very sparse piano at the very least.
So this is my drug: Nicolas Jaar. Whenever I find myself in a writer’s block so deep that I really can’t find a way out on my own, I turn to him for guidance. Some of my very best poems have been written to the live recording of Darkside in Paris. I’ve always loved that recording. It’s just slightly more up-tempo than Psychic, making it great for going places or warming up to a party, and writing as well. It gets the brain moving. I do love Psychic as well with its deeper sounds; its less controlled universe, more free-flowing, obviously created for the listener whereas the live recording is made for the audience. That’s one of the best things about Darkside, how they were able to completely change their material to fit a club-audience while still maintaining the song-structures. I was fortunate enough to experience them twice when they were touring last year. Those are some of the best concerts in my life; concerts I won’t ever forget.
I hope to someday be able to capture in writing what Jaar creates in music. I love to look back on the things I’ve written the past couple of months. More often than not there are some pretty solid things that I hadn’t thought much of first time around, and some things that I can greatly enhance by changing the rhythm. That’s one of the things where Jaar comes in handy: as an inspiration to try to give way to the silence in the poem. It’s such a difficult thing to do. When there are only signs and non-signs, the eye falls so quickly from one line of signs to the next – no matter how many lines of non-signs there are. It’s quite the task to try to keep the eyes lingering, it’s all in the rhythm: the eyes need to sense the break more than feel it, they need to somehow expect it, while it’s my job to still make it seem like a surprise. It’s no easy feat.