As James Blake is gushed on by the critical cacophony, a different young wunderkind will likely be overlooked. Nicolas Jaar, just 20 years old, is at least as deceptively related to the electronic music community as Blake; his indirect affiliation lies with house and techno rather than dubstep. Each has taken bold sonic risks within their respective genres, and Jaar in particular is drawing on a musical palette that is remarkably rich with influences.
Strange can exist anywhere, but we have a habit of thinking only the maximal and unhinged-- Captain Beefheart, Basement Jaxx, R. Kelly-- are truly weird. How bizarre can the music of Philip Glass or Wolfgang Voigt really be? It seems contained, planned; the curio is the choice to be so on-keel in the first place. One of my favorite aspects of Nicolas Jaar's debut full-length, Space Is Only Noise, is how thoroughly it scatters this misconception.
Space Is Only Noise is the first full-length effort by Nicolas Jaar, a Chilean-American producer whose work is deeply influenced by Ricardo Villalobos, jazz pianists like Dave Brubeck and Keith Jarrett, and Leonard Cohen. Early singles "Russian Dolls" and "Time for Us" were more dancefloor-friendly than the album, which layers multiple acoustic instruments, most notably Jaar's own jazz-inflected piano, sampled vocals, and even a drum solo (the 23-second "Trace") into a melancholy, pensive 45-minute journey. Jaar assembled the disc from several years' worth of recordings -- he's relentlessly productive -- but it has a conceptual unity that makes it feel like the product of a single burst of inspiration.
Nicolas Jaar is billed as a dance producer. This is a lie, a lie evident from the first minute of the opening track. He produces minimalist electronic music that blurs the lines between sample and real instrumentation, leaving the listener guessing at almost every sound. “Nicolas Jaar is a dance producer” is a lie, but a very enjoyable one.
Être, the opening track on 20-year-old Nicolas Jaar's debut album, is an alluring mix of disparate elements. From the sound of water lapping on a shore, it moves through extended quotes in French before warm organ chords play out over twitching electronics. It's ridiculously, wonderfully pretentious, and is endemic of an album that's hard to describe (Jaar himself calls his music "blue-wave").
At this point, “minimal” and “techno” are pretty poor words to describe the work of Nicolas Jaar, a 21-year-old Brown University student by day and controversial club messiah figure by night whose debut LP, Space Is Only Noise, represents either the height of egghead twattery or a new vanguard for electronic music, depending on whom you choose to believe. The specifics of his sound — a bricolage of submerged beats, French Impressionist-sounding piano squiggles, musique concrète doodads, and the occasional glum vocal from the man himself — make detractors’ slinging of the word “pretentious” par for the course. Taken within the dance music infrastructure through which he’s come to prominence, releasing EPs and singles via Wolf + Lamb and other likeminded labels since 2008, remixing greats, and manning dancefloors, some dismay is to be expected when an amenable deep house groove gives way to a patch of Nick Cave gothicism or a recording of children laughing in somebody’s backyard.
Listening to this feels like entering an entirely self-contained world. Alex Macpherson 2011 Another decade, another Chilean expat genius ready to redefine electronic music – so the hype goes, anyway. In the 00s, Ricardo Villalobos forged the path of minimal techno; and, thanks to a series of stellar singles, 20-year-old NYC resident Nicolas Jaar has been seen by some as a successor of sorts.