Joshua Light Show and Nicholas Jaar
Warwick Arts Centre
Review by Andy Field
The Joshua Light Show has existed for exactly twice the number of years that Nicholas Jaar has been alive, and you could almost believe the symmetry of this fact to be deliberate.
In the first instance it speaks to the remarkable distance this collaboration encompasses. Resident artists for three hugely significant years at Fillmore East in New York from 1968 to 1971, Joshua Light Show are a vital fragment of an era that exists for most of the audience as little more than an idea. Even the thick curves of their company logo are enough to trigger a domino rally of associations trailing off towards Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead and a whole anthology of romantic notions we’ve been both surviving on and trying to escape ever since.
Nicholas Jaar, meanwhile, was born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the son of the remarkable installation artist Alfredo Jaar. His first and thus far only solo album, ‘Space is Only Noise’ appeared just two years ago to seemingly universal acclaim; a subtle, elegant arrangement of electronic noise, all clips and glitches and beats constellating themselves around fragments of voices and crisp slivers of melody. The feverish sense of expectation tangible in the crowd that comfortably fill Warwick Arts Centre’s biggest space on a sleepy Sunday night is testament to an artist who is about to become (if he is not already) quite impressively massive.
Yet from almost the moment the lights dim any span of time separating the two seems to melt away with the first gently curling tendrils of coloured light expanding across the enormous screen on which the Joshua Light Show’s effects are projected. In part this is because a lot of Jaar’s set is made up of material from his Darkside collaboration with guitarist Dave Harrington, who joins him onstage for most of the show. Both of them silhouetted against the vivid colours of the light show, Harrington’s guitar line drifts and spins over Jaar’s restless landscape of noise, sounding not unlike the woozy psychedelia with which Joshua White and his fantastical colour effects first became famously associated. It is only in the second half of the show, as the beats accelerate and the volume rises, that this dreamy contemplation gives way to a more familiarly contemporary rush of bouncing euphoria, the audience rising from their seats and spilling down towards the edge of the stage.
And even then, with Jaar accelerating and the audience giddy and breathless in their attempts to keep up, there still remains a real sense of symmetry between him and the lightshow. Both are, fundamentally, about textures and patterns; an accumulation of layers that move across and through each other in ways that are as unexpected as they are delightful. The light show breathes and pulses like interstellar coral, or a sunset with no sense of self-restraint. It wraps itself around every part of Jaar’s music, shifting and transforming as the sounds themselves shift and transform; an alchemical synaesthesia, an attempt to explain what it is everyone in this room loves about music using colours rather than words.