“The Ego” (Nicolas Jaar and Theatre Roosevelt)

A new track by Nicolas Jaar and an entity – not unexpectedly, given what one knows of Jaar, who or what this cipher of a collaborator is, is not easy to determine, although it does seem to be in possession of an actual human voice – called Theatre Roosevelt, “The Ego,” was posted a few days ago on the Soundcloud page of his record label, Clown and Sunset; with its distinctive treatment of that voice as though it were simply the first amongst equals in an arsenal of musical instruments, subjecting it electronically to various modifications in order to draw its sheer sonority into the foreground while sacrificing whatever sense it may enunciate, this song – or is it an antisong? – could announce a different turn on Jaar’s part: which might account somewhat for the great interest it’s aroused amongst his devotees in the short span of time since it was sprung on the public without much warning at all.

This musical composition sounds very apposite at a moment when so often it happens that people do not take the time to speak with one another but rather in their talk stream or rush loudly past each other – as though it were composed for a moment that would be manifest, in the ears of some disinterested and slightly bemused auditor, as overflowing with snippets of speech which attract attention, if they merit any at all, only on account of their sound and not by their sense or lack thereof – apposite to a time when the mode in which one listens to others resounds with a frustrating syncopation that frequently pre-⁠empts the very possibility of a mutual understanding (or even the proverbial “agreement to disagree,” which is the latter’s most minimal reduction). Yes, with respect to this period, “The Ego” as a piece of music is timely indeed.

There’s some equanimity here; but those who have been waiting to be borne away on a lasting feeling of elation – and a quick glance around the Internet to see how this track has been received, suggests that this is what some have in fact been waiting for – will probably find their expectations dashed, and have to seek that transport elsewhere: on a second or third listening, amidst the irony and even perhaps a certain cynicism which are increasingly audible, one begins to hear more and more notes of disappointment or something like despair throughout this mutation of a song. In an age when public life is reigned by rubbish, one has heard it all before, and it may now be more devoid of meaning than it ever has been. And, who knows, perhaps after all this is something to be thankful for.

Postscript. As the record label’s Soundcloud page appears to have been wiped clean, I’ve found the song elsewhere and embedded it again.