- Even those peripherally interested in dance music have probably noted the meteoric rise of Nicolas Jaar. The Chilean-born New Yorker debuted at just 17 with the expansive, cellar dweller house of his debut, the Student EP, in 2008 on New York's esteemed Wolf & Lamb. Following his Marks and Angles EP on Circus Company and a contribution to the label's celebratory Snuggle & Slap compilation, Jaar returned early last year to his original home with the slow astral grooves of A Time for Us along with a series of singles on his own slightly-skewed label, Clown & Sunset. As his music continued to both fuse and restructure traditional house, downtempo, jazz touchstones, his increasingly popular live sets mirrored the warmth and patience of his own productions, often sticking with warm-up BPMs for long portions of his sets (or damn near the entire runtime).
All of which leads up to Space Is Only Noise, his heartily anticipated debut album on the lovably weird sonic melting pot, Circus Company. And, frankly, the label's the perfect home for a record of Jaar's recombined dance tempos and textures. Much like James Blake—which Space is likely to be coupled with in the coming weeks for their different approaches to vocally oriented electronic music—there's a fascination with space and near-silence. Jaar uses his own voice, for the most part, more as texture than as center. Much of Space's charm lies in how suffused they are with moments of hush. In fact, so calm and comforting is Jaar's debut that the album at times almost resembles a bizarre downtempo DJ set of his own material (to which precisely nobody would be dancing). Melding Parisian jazz, Warp-style IDM, slo-mo house, classical, musique concrete and hip-hop, Jaar somehow never feels like he's trying on too many hats; the seams of his restitching just don't show.
For an album so clearly concerned with cohesion and a sustained narrative, it seems almost foolish to try to tease apart highlights. Space is, first and foremost, a full-length statement, and one of the best you're likely to hear all year. Remove any of its tracks, resequence any portion, and it would feel like a film poorly recut by the studio. Bookended by the mournful sample-and-piano crawl of "Etre"s, there's the bluesy vocal glide and soft Rhodes of "Colomb," or the waltzing guitar and slow grinding bass of "Too Many Kids Finding Rain in the Dust." With its basso vocal repetitions and stumbling rhythm, "Keep Me There" sounds a lot like labelmates Noze, while Jaar anchors the drunken house of "I Got A" around a famed Ray Charles vocal, reveling in the use of such a "big" piece of history.
The title track, on the other hand, is echo-chamber soul music, Jaar's voice making its way carefully over its gentle, clicking rhythms and electronic glare. "Almost Fell" finds Jaar in brokedown effected-falsetto against sparse Rhodes coloring—the record's most refined moment arguably, and its saddest—only to lead into one of its more celebratory outings, the buoyant sample-cut funk of "Balance Her in Between Your Eyes." It's a pairing that resembles the slow emotional slide of life itself, this barely noted rise from deep blues to dancing days. It's also a good example of just how reflective and journey-based Jaar's debut feels. Space Is Only Noise is as appropriate for ten on a Sunday morning as it for the bleary ends of 3 AM, an on-the-nod effort that still feels redemptive and invigorating. You can play it whenever, which is good because you're going to want to play it a lot.
04. Too Many Kids Finding Rain in the Dust
05. Keep Me There
06. I Got A
07. Problem with the Sun
08. Space Is Only Noise If You Can See
09. Almost Fell
10. Balance Her In Between Your Eyes
11. Specters of the Future