Nicolas Jaar

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Space Is Only Noise (2011) , 7.5/10
Don't Break My Love (2011), 7/10 (EP)
Darkside: Psychic (2013), 6.5/10
The Color of Pomegranates (2015), 7/10
Nymphs (2016), 6/10 (compilation)
Sirens (2016), 7/10

Chilean-American producer and pianist Nicolas Jaar debuted with the EP The Student (2008), influenced by Ricardo Villalobos, and with singles such as Russian Dolls and Time for Us.

Space Is Only Noise (Circus Company, 2011) was a mostly instrumental experiment of synth-pop, techno and free-jazz. The collection is bookended by two takes on Etre, an experiment in fusing subdued musique concrete and anemic jazz piano. The hypnotic, depressed Keep Me There, perhaps influenced by Badalamenti's soundtracks, sets the tone with a ghostly twang repeated ad libitum over a loud beat. The songs employ different voices, or, better, different manipulations of Jaar's voice, from the sensual downtempo dance music of Colomb to the martial Doors-ian elegy of Space Is Only Noise If You Can See (possibly the standout), and from the psychedelic, dreamy soul litany of Balance Her In Between Your Eyes to the Prince-influenced falsetto funk of Variations. Jaar concocts irresistible rhythms out of almost nothing, like in the lazy guitar lullaby delivered in a detached tone Too Many Kids Finding Rain In The Dust that, with a little more determination, could have matched the demented alienation of Trio's Da Da Da, and in the skeletal cabaret blues Problems With The Sun Brief, futuristic Brian Eno-esque interludes interfere with the song cycle in a way that emphasizes their Brecht-ian estrangement. Jaar de facto coined a new musical format for the digital singer-songwriter of the 21st century.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Carmine DeMatteis)

Il producer e pianista cileno-americano Nicolas Jaar ha debuttato con l’EP The Student (2008), influenzato da Ricardo Villalobos, e con singoli come Russian Dolls e Time for Us.

Space Is Only Noise (Circus Company, 2011) rappresentò un esperimento per lo più strumentale di synth-pop, techno e free-jazz. L’opera si apre e si chiude con le due tracce di Etre, un esperimento che fonde una quieta musique concrète con un pianoforte jazz anemico. La ipnotica e depressa Keep Me There, forse influenzata dalle colonne sonore di Badalamenti, ripete ad libitum un clangore spettrale su un tappeto ritmico rumoroso. Le canzoni utilizzano molteplici voci o, meglio, molteplici manipolazioni della voce di Jaar, dalla musica dance-downtempo sensuale di Colomb all’elegia marziale Doors-iana di Space Is Only Noise If You Can See (verosimilmente il punto più alto), e, dalla psichedelica, onirica litania soul di Balance Her In Between Your Eyes al falsetto funk di Variations in stile Prince. Jaar tira fuori irresistibili ritmiche quasi dal nulla, come la pigra ninna-nanna per chitarra proposta in una distaccata Too Many Kids Finding Rain In The Dust che, con un pizzico in più di convinzione, avrebbe potuto competere con l’alienazione demente di Da Da Da del Trio; e il blues-cabaret scheletrico Problems With The Sun, un intermezzo futuristico à la Brian Eno che interferisce con il ciclo della canzone in modo da sottolinearne lo straniamento Brecht-iano. Jaar ha di fatto coniato un nuovo format musicale per i cantanti/cantautori digitali del ventunesimo secolo.

The Don't Break My Love (Clown and Sunset, 2011) was another mesmerizing essay in the art of understatement. Don't Break My Love indulges in subsonic glitch-y percussion and an even more subsonic electronic melody. It is only towards the end that a cartoonish, chipmunk-ish voice surfaces to reiterate the motif. Why Didn't You Save Me is in several parts: first we hear chipmunk DJs spinning drum & bass, then future aliens jamming to an ancient recording of African tribal drumming, and finally a soul balladeer drowning in deep ice.

Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington recorded the EP Darkside (2011) and the full-length Psychic (Matador, 2013) under the moniker Darkside (not the famous Darkside of the 1990s). The music is mostly relaxed instrumental shuffles, ranging from the psychedelic techno novelty Freak Go Home to the eight-minute industrial-funk threnody The Only Shrine I've Seen. There isn't really a common praxis. Each song seems to originate from a different process and with a different aim. The ominous atmosphere of the eleven-minute standout Golden Arrow is the result of mixing pulsation and drone in an artful cinematic manner to achieve a sort of transcendent Giorgio Moroder-esque disco-music with echoes of Pink Floyd's Echo and Wish You Were Here. The similarity with latter-day Pink Floyd further increases with the conventional lounge-oriented wordless ballad Metatron. The album is fun and intriguing, but also contains some truly embarrassing filler (such as the blues-rock stomp Paper Trails and the pop-soul elegy Heart).

Nicolas Jaar penned a soundtrack for the 1969 film by Sergej Paradzanov, The Color of Pomegranates (Other People, 2015). This is abstract electronic soundpainting. It begins borrowing the tragic overtones of Klaus Schulze's early cosmic symphonies, but soon decays into disjointed noise that leads to a tenderly romantic sequence of tinkling sounds. A glitchy loop mixed with a distant anemic wail further disintegrates the audio stream. Found voices are manipulated and embedded in diffracted echoes of ethnic music. Metallic industrial metronomy morphs into a hypnotic Caribbean-tinged dance. Then the tiny chaos for a while acquires a psychotic flavor, eventually interrupted by children's choir. At about half time (42 minutes into the piece) the music begins to turn more and more humane, indulging in piano jazz and wavering folk melodies and even thumping techno music (one hour into the piece). The latter opens a propulsive segment, but soon the music plunges into religious laments and a harrowing darkness from which it reemerges only with the final piano elegy, halfway between a nocturnal jazz improvisation and a neoclassical sonata.

The soundtrack for Jacques Audiard's film "Dheepan" (2015) is much more conventional.

Nymphs (2016) collects EPs released in 2015 and titled Nymphs II, Nymphs III and Nymphs IV as well as the older EP Don't Break My Love (2011). II contains the rather messy and too loud The Three Sides of Audrey and Why She's All Alone Now but also the dance jam No One Is Looking at U whose multiple interlocking melodic vocals melt inside minimalist repetition. The highlight of III and of the entire series is the 13-minute Swim, whose soundscape is one of the most elegant dance jams of Jaar's career: the sounds of water from the viewpoint of someone who is drowning while above water someone is listening to a jazz record introduce a thumping techno pattern that repeats endlessly with slight variations. IV contains the tender Mistress, a cross between a liquid jazz improvisation on a pop melody and an impressionistic chamber piano sonata, and the eight-minute Fight, a funk jam for catatonic dancers. These three EPs were vastly inferior to the EP Don't Break My Love and even to the soundtrack for The Color of Pomegranates.

Sirens (2016) does not seem to have a common theme or a common style. It feels more like a collection of songs composed over a number of years. The quality also varies quite a bit. The eleven-minute Killing Time is a fantasia in many parts. It opens with ripples of piano chords and noise of glass shards. After five minutes Jaar's falsetto vocals emerge over a slow but thumping blues rhythm, evoking an esoteric ritual inside the funeral chamber of a pyramid. And this gets drowned in glitchy noise and creepy drones. There are two odd political songs: the cumbia-infected No that melts away just when it was becoming a childish novelty; and History Lesson, sung (in falsetto) and played (in a slow tempo) like a romantic dance of the 1950s. The highlights are two rhythmic compositions. The Governor is a dancefloor number that borrows Suicide's feverish psychobilly beat, but, more importantly, boasts two instrumental breaks of pure genius: one of dissonant jazz piano and then a longer one of saxophone wails over chaotic percussion (as if two tracks were being superimposed). The ten-minute Three Sides Of Nazareth adopts a locomotive rhythm a` la Kevin Ayers' Stop This Train. After about four minutes it abandons the beat and moves into a monastery haunted by cavernous echoes. The song physically halts; sparse piano chords and a sizzling electrical current dominate for a few seconds. Then the locomotive rhythm resumes at maximum speed (exactly the dynamics of Ayers' song).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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