Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cloun & Sunset

In the summer of ‘04, Soul Keita, Nikita Quasim and Nicolas Jaar met for the first time in the border between Tijuana and San Diego. They felt both endangered and empowered by a force they could not express through words. So Nikita sang, while Soul and Nicolas clapped their hands. These three individuals have been trying to re-create this moment in no man’s land until Nicolas Jaar founded “clown and sunset”; an outlet for these three artists to re-invent lost memories.

It's likely that Nicolas Jaar and his Clown and Sunset compatriots had most of Ines finished, if not all of it, before his name became such a hot commodity in the electronic music world. But it's nice, nonetheless, to hear how little has changed in the interim on the compilation. People are coming to Jaar; Jaar is hardly coming to them.

Something tells me, though, that a delicate piano and guitar duet called "Tribute to My Mother" is exactly what fans might expect. They should. The young producer has made it clear that the dance floor is the least of his worries, even when he bothers to heed the advice of his Wolf + Lamb mentors and put a kick drum underneath something. Ines is way more concerned with atmosphere—open spaces, exotic touches, spliff smoking. It's the soundtrack to the ride home from the afterparty.

Indeed, it's most party-ready moments (a relative term here) are probably its weakest. Jaar's "Love You Gotta Lose Again" is stiff, sample-driven hip-hop that doesn't get anywhere in its three-and-a-half minutes. "Her String," credited to the Clown N Sunset Collective, proves that more doesn't necessarily equal better. It's busier than anything here, losing the airy charm of the sparse surrounding songs by revealing what happens when the crew all decides to contribute. The secret to the success of Jaar—and his friends Soul Keita and Nikita Quasim—is their singular approach. Quasim's "Freshmen Year" would sound silly with a bassline; Keita's "Dusties N 808s" would sound silly without one.

When they go solo, then, things get far more interesting. Quasim's "Can't Go to Cuba" sounds like a native dance from the country stripped bare. You can also hear shades of hip-hop, a key influence for the entire label, in Keita's "Don't Believe the Hype," which once again revels in the power of the 808. But, more than anything, Ines affirms that in the course of four releases, the artists here have staked out a signature sound. It's kind of like what you might imagine dOP would sound like if they were undergraduates at an Ivy League college. Or, maybe to save time, we should just call it Clown and Sunset.
Tracklist: Various Artists - Ines
01. Nicolas Jaar - Tribute to My Mother
02. Nikita Quasim - Freshmen Year
03. Nicolas Jaar - Dubliners
04. Soul + Nico feat. Nicolas Jaar - Goin' Bad
05. Soul Keita - Dusties n 808s
06. Soul Keita - Don't Believe the Hype
07. Nikita Quasim - Can't Go to Cuba
08. Clown n' Sunset Collective - Her String
09. Nicolas Jaar - Love You Gotta Lose again
10. Soul Keita - Don't Believe the Hype

Words:  Todd Burns RA