The wizard that is Nicolas Jaar mesmerizes his audience with 45 minutes of pure magic ambient techno, space house and radio interferences, creating an exquisite and smooth coccon you won’t want to leave.
Hello everyone !
This fourth post takes us right to another great city of music, and one of the many prodigies it has given birth to; I am talking about New York and the amazing Nicolas Jaar. The set I am bringing you today is indeed a dj set from Nicolas Jaar that was recorded at a Boiler Room x RBMA event.
First off, a necessary explanation about the RBMA and the Boiler Room: what are these, how they run and why they stand high in today’s global electronic music landscape.
RBMA stands for Red Bull Music Academy, and as they say it themselves, it is “a world-travelling series of music workshops and festivals”. Created in 1998, it is now in its 15th edition and takes place in New York this year. Over two weeks time it brings together around 30 aspiring artists (DJs, producers, bands…) selected by the RBMA staff in order to make ideas collide and encourage new creations. The participants attend to lectures and performances given by respected artists and showcase their own talents during live performances and club nights. The fruits of these meetings are quite huge and have led to countless new music, collaborations and shows. The RBMA is definitely a renowned institution, and people who have attended it rightfully claim to be RBMA alumnis. The RBMA initials also appear regularly on several occasions during the year, for festivals or club nights. The RBMA stages usually stand as a garantee of quality underground electronic music. They have set up a radio (the RBMA Radio) which is actually more like a huge library of recorded live mixes, interviews or chats that I higly recommend you to browse; it is the kind of place where you always end up finding something you like and listening to it for hours. All lectures are available on the RBMA website and are a great source of inspiration.
Boiler Room is now running in its 3rd year; its principle is simple: parties streamed live online. Just one webcam, facing the DJ, showing him, its material and the crowd behind. It first started in London, where it is still happening once a week or more, but Boiler Room now also runs regular events in Berlin, New York, Los Angeles and virtually everywhere else on the occasions of festivals. They say that ‘You get to watch amazing music, free, live, online’. Having being host to a bit more than 500 events today, it claims the title of the world’s leading underground music show ! Nearly every DJ I know has indeed done a Boiler Room set, and watching (or rather listening to) a BR session is often the chance to discover some new music you wouldn’t have thought of.
So, two months ago, Nicolas Jaar played the Boiler Room New York for a special Red Bull Music Academy take-over, and his set has finally been released on the internet for our aural pleasure.
Nicolas Jaar is a truly talented man. Being only 23, he has already released about ten EPs and one album, on his own label, Clown and Sunset. His first production, entitled The Student, came out in 2007 on the New York house label Wolf + Lamb music. It immediately drew the attention of the critics with its very particular industrial minimalistic sound (Jaar always use raw sounds in his works, like random noises) calmed down by warm piano chords and soothing synth layers. His next EPs (Marks and Angles, Mi Mujer) and especially his album, Space is Only Noise, revealed him to the masses and established him as a new reference in the electronic music scene.
What defines Jaar’s music is its ability to slowly and gently surround you, forming a sort of strange, melancolic and smooth cocoon around your ears. It is a very passionate music, where every small part of a track is precisely crafted and carefully measured to have the right weight at the right time: a truly exquisite work of art. Let yourself totally abandon into it, and it will lead you to unsuspected levels of emotions. Yet this slowed down, non agressive experimental techno music can also make you dance, slowly but surely, thanks to skilfully distilled bass kicks. But it feels like those bass kicks are the most beautiful bass kicks ever: they give you such a great feeling of fullness.
I guess by now you’ve understood that what I find truly incredible in Nicolas Jaar’s music is the whole atmosphere he manages to create. His live sets are properly amazing, I highly recommend you to run to one of his concerts if you can (unfortunately he’s not set to tour extensively this year): it is like time stands still. His ‘DJ’ sets (it’s more a sort of live) are no different: check his fabulous BBC Essential Mix to get an idea (this one will probably be subject to an article on this blog in the future).
Let’s finally get back to the Boiler Room set now. Nicolas Jaar starts in a totally amazing way: playing a few notes of synth first, and then jamming with the radio from a ghetto blaster. Yes, he is literally setting up the beat by turning on and off the radio: that is absolutely genius. After a few minutes, the real bass kicks in, but the radio bits, which are fragments and samples of what seems to be a old recorded live commentary of a baseball game, comes back and is naturally included in the track. It is not the radio anymore, it is not superimposed on the track, it is a part of it. Everything is being built live, this whole world, this whole atmosphere: the piano, the synths (not played live though), the bass, the drums, the vocal samples, the radio. Hand crafted by the magician Jaar. Absolutely fascinating.
The set then slowly evolves between the tracks, with radio interferences sometimes being used in transitions, before the bass kicks in again, smooth and controlled as always. And you begin to dance, gently noding your head to the music, accompanying this bass. But as you could expect things to stay this way, Jaar unveils another trick from up his sleeve: suddenly the bass disappears and you find yourself literally floating into the synth layers, with radio interferences and a voice coming from space. You’re about to get totally lost when Jaar grabs you back with an absolutely beautiful vocal sample (that one seems to be from Beyoncé), and develops a new track underneath it: fantastic. One of those magical moments. The set goes on, alternating bass-infused, fast paced and chilled-out moments. All seem to be unreleased material. The set finally ends up after 45 minutes of a voyage extraordinaire between space and time, through radio and music. Only one thing comes to my mind: Waaoh.