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Various – Inès review

Nicolas Jaar has a vision – a colossal, sprawling, widescreen epic in eye-popping 3D and ear-busting Dolby digital surround. So far, we’ve only had glimpses of this vision – the odd crackly house/techno release on Wolf + Lamb, for instance, or an abstract white label here and there. The nearest we’ve come to seeing this vision fulfilled is via some sporadic releases on the Clown & Sunset label, a self-run home for his more abstract, downtempo and experimental compositions. Even then, it’s been like checking a series of tantalizing teaser trailers for some unfinished, forthcoming masterpiece. Thankfully, Jaar is almost ready to premiere his grand epic. Before his much anticipated debut album drops on Circus Company in January 2011, he’s treating us to a more than worthy support feature in the shape of Inès, the first full-length collection from Clown & Sunset.

Featuring previously unreleased compositions from Jaar, Soul Keita and Nikita Quasim (the latter two portrayed as oddball friends of his from Brown University, New York), it’s a beautiful and beguiling listen. Built around strange dusty samples, glitchy vinyl crackle, mournful pianos and sporadic bursts of percussion – be they the distant thump of a remembered 808 kick or a re-tuned take on Cuban drums – Inès manages to be both refreshingly playful and almost cripplingly sad. It’s an uneasy combination, but one that produces some moments of real magic (see the string-drenched tango blues of “Love You Gotta Lose Again”, the sorrowful “Tribute To My Mother”, and the slow-building minimalist horror of “Dubliners”). It’s not quite the full director’s cut we’ve been waiting for, but it’s pretty darn close.

Matt Anniss