BEHIND THE TIMES: Nicolas Jaar

For the past week, I have been mesmerised by Nicolas Jaar’s debut, Space is Only Noise. I know that it came out over a year ago, but for some reason or another, it completely passed me by upon its initial release. After finally giving it the time and attention I should have a long time ago, I’ve become transfixed by the collection of songs; it’s become quite an unhealthy obsession. I mean, I’d heard the odd single by the guy before (such as the brilliant ‘Wouh’), but this album really is something else.

Now, the word ‘unique’ is used more than it really should be to describe music, but I’m going to put this out there and just say that the word is more than apt to describe the music that Jaar created. He mixes minimalist slow-burning techno, dark atmospheric tones and elements of jazz to form one of the strangest albums I’ve listened to in recent memory. It’s definitely an album that needs to be listened to as a whole; it all flows together with such intricate precision, just listening to one track would feel like a disservice.

Although it has a minimalist aesthetic, I keep finding new things on the tracks with each listen of the album. It’s perfect music to just zone out to and let it engulf you. Jaar samples sounds from the most far-flung places, from the sounds of flowing water, conversations and even children playing. It creates quite an unnerving atmosphere, but one that is ultimately very intriguing. ‘Specters of the Future’ is illustrated by the sounds of records skipping, dubstep-infused rhythms, jazzy pianos and space-aged vocals from Jaar announcing the track’s title.

There are moments on the album that play like much more traditional electronic music, such as title track ‘Space Is Only Noise If You Can See‘. The track employs irresistible synths throughout while Jaar’s low vocals illustrate the track. While the synths loop over and over, there’s a gradual build-up  that feels invigorating. ‘Too Many Kids Finding Rain in the Dust‘ features broken violin notes  intertwine with classical guitar to form electronic music of the most organic kind, akin to Gold Panda’s ‘Parents‘.

Space Is Only Noises feels like it’s almost haunted by the narration that introduces the album. It is of a French man who talks about a body floating in the water, and the nature of water itself, and it reappears throughout the album, along with other sampled vocals that give the music a personality that would otherwise be hard to find.

Considering that Jaar was only 21 when he produced this body of work is quite something, it shows the intellect, precision and diversity of the work of someone much older and wiser. There’s so much on offer here, everyone should listen to the album at least once. Who knows, you might like it as much as I did… let me know what you think of the album in the comment box below!

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