Nicolás Jaar has spent most of his career as a prodigious enigma/master manipulator/producer wunderkind capable of splicing, cutting and magicking sound and rhythm where there shouldn’t be any. It’s a cerebral approach that goes beyond music, opening up a world of collaboration across music and visual art – from playing in Darkside with guitarist Dave Harrington to co-producing FKA Twigs’ Magdalene and working with Indian visual artist Somnath Bhatt, who not only handled the artwork for new album Intiha, but also connected Jaar with his collaborator Ali Sethi.
Inspired by Jaar’s 2020 album Telas, Sethi set about sketching out his own builds in response, improvising vocals and Urdu poems. A lightning bolt for a serial improviser like Jaar, the result is a compelling blend of Sethi’s desire to resurrect ancient poetic forms lilting over Jaar’s contemporary, already genre-bending production.
For once, this might not be Jaar’s show. Sure, the foundations are his but Sethi’s presence across these eight tracks is spellbinding. Where ‘Nazar Se’ is minimal and melodic there’s a spiritual slow build to ‘Raat Bahr’; where ‘Dard’ is delicate and drifting, Sethi’s vocals floating somewhere in the ether, ‘Chiragh’ is more scuffed and dramatic, the synths fraying with a crackle of electricity in the space and static. But lead single ‘Muddat’ is the star, finding the perfect balance between the ancestral ghazal vocal forms Sethi’s looking to resurrect and Jaar’s trademark itchy, shuffling percussive rhythms. Melancholic, buoyant, playful, it’s a brilliant expression of an album reimagined in a way not even a savant like Jaar himself would have considered.