Space is only noise
Nicolas Jaar was born in NY, grew up Santiago de Chile, and returned to NY as a teenager. This can be heard in his music, from a slow disco thump to emotional pianos. He started making music at the age of 14, and now barely out of his teens he’s making an impact on dance floors worldwide. His emotional full length debut album Space Is Only Noise is fittingly released on Valentine’s Day by Circus Company. We all know him from Wolf + Lamb and on his own label, Clown and Sunset. After a handful of quality edits and a very well received EP, Jaar has become one of the most acclaimed new artists and DJ’s in electronic music. He’s a sought after DJ, known for his slow house music. Not many DJ’s can pull off a sub-100-bpm tempo at peak time in the techno Mecca of Berlin, and still receive an ecstatic hands-in-the-air response for their precocious efforts. There are few artists that truly live up to the hype that surround them, but Jaar (like James Blake) is one of the few exceptions. Even though people are familiar with his analog sounds, they might still be surprised by this crossover dance music oddity.
The sounds of rolling waves on “être,” opens as a score, with contemporary chamber piano music, children’s playing and electronic blips and blops. The beautiful melancholy sets the mode for the rest of the album. “Colomb” follows with beautiful, Auto-Tuned French lyrics, minimalistic beats, organic Rhodes and an irresistible slow bouncing bass line. The album picks up the tempo with “Too many kids finding rain in the dust,” which is either a homage or a shameless theft of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Red Right Hand.” On “Keep me there”, a monotone tongue-in-cheek track, with repetitive humming, Jaar says “We’re in a really bad bed, right?” “Mm, it’s not really a bed. It’s like a balloon” responds a female voice as they both fade away in laughter. Horns erupt seconds later over a bouncing bassline, making you wanna dance. “I got a woman” is a typical Jaar edit, a Ray Charles sample over a slow sticky hip hop beat. He returns to his brand of slow house and Nick Cave influences on “Problems with the sun.” His layered vocals float over piano and acid synths. The title track “Space is only noise if you can see” sounds very Berlinish – reminding you of both David Bowie or Lou Reed and new German club music, but it also has traces of italo and Giorgio Moroder. “Almost fell” is hauntingly beautiful and minimalistic, with just keys, static noise and echoing vocals with some sparse drums at the end. “Variations” has the taste of both Blues and Tango, like an old forgotten St. Germain track with a slow steady house beat. With “^tre” Jaar revisits the opening track with emotional piano, and the circle is complete.
This is an album of 14 cohesive tracks seamlessly merging, and playing with both lightness and darkness. Jaar is a mature producer, comparable to Matthew Herbert and Kieran Hebden. The album is full of Latin emotions, passion and drama, but also playfulness and both complex and subtle forward thinking productions. His style is hard to describe, but that’s also one of the features that makes his music so exciting. Space Is Only Noise is not a perfect album, he could have done without the fillers, but it’s a perfect listening experience.