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!


BEHIND THE TIMES: Sparky Deathcap

Just to let you know, I am completely and utterly transfixed by Sparky Deathcap‘s Tear Jerky EP at the moment. I know that it came out in 2009, but I missed it altogether at release for some reason.
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Sparky Deathcap (also known as Rob Taylor) toured extensively with Los Campesinos! before actually becoming a permanent member of the band in 2010, but before that (and during) he creates serene folk-pop. The style varies widely on the EP, with violin reminiscent of Owen Pallett, and a plethora of early Patrick Wolf influences.

What grabbed me from the offset was the fact that all of the tracks on the record were so diverse, each one had a distinct atmosphere about them; from fast-paced closer ‘Send it to Oslo‘, to Sufjan Stevens influenced ‘September‘. This constant change of tone stops the EP ever feeling old, or same-y. With an 18 minute running time, there’s very little chance of that happening anyway.

 Lyrically, the EP conquers themes of travelling, break-ups and loneliness in a fashion that’s quite typical of a 20-something indie-folk type. But Sparky has something special about him, there’s a sense of bleak coldness surrounding the record that he somehow manages to make endearing.

The highlight for me is definitely Winter City Ghosts. It mixes a hypnotic drum beat with Wind in the Wires­-esque guitar work with austere lyrics such as ‘I’m not fooling you / I don’t know anyone in this city / I don’t know you / And you don’t really know me‘ making this song almost an addiction for me.

Sparky Deathcap supposedly has a lot more musical output under his sleeve, hopefully a full-length should be arriving in the next 12 months or so. I, for one, can’t wait. He is also an accomplished illustrator, including designing everything to do with the Hello Sadness singles and artwork. Check out his site that he updates every other day with witty single-frame comics.