Nicolas Jaar – Sirens/Space Is Only Noise

A year or so ago I bought ‘Space Is Only Noise’ by Nicolas Jaar on a whim. I was in the record store, saw it and streamed a couple of tracks there and then, which resulted in buying a copy of it. So not completely sight unseen, or hearing unheard more accurately, except that isn’t really an expression anybody uses.

I didn’t know much about him but sometimes these purchases that come from nowhere can be the most fulfilling, as discovery is a reward in and of itself.

I later found out that Jaar was born in New York to a Palestinian-Chilean Father and French-Chilean Mother, Alfredo Jaar  and Evelyne Meynard respectively. From the age of 3 Jaar lived in Chilli with his Mother and family for about 6 years before returning to New York. At age 17 he met Gadi Mizrahi and Zev Eisenberg who ran hotel parties in Brooklyn and after hearing some of Jaar’s early work, Mizrahi suggested that he put a kick drum underneath his mostly experimental compositions which resulted in Jaar’s first foray into dance music. He DJ’d for several years and finally released his debut album, Space Is Only Noise, in January 2011 to critical acclaim. I was at least three years late in discovering the album, but so what? Discovering it at all was the thing, not when.

sionThere are certain aspects of music that I find immediately interesting, one of which is understatement, compositions that don’t jump up and down shouting ‘Me, me, me’ and demanding all my attention right now before it’s too late and the song is over. What Jaar portrays to me with ‘Space Is Only Noise’ is patience. This is, in itself, confidence. The music he has presented is not for instant gratification but to be listened to repeatedly, with each listen revealing something new, or forgotten. It really is a very special set of songs.

I also do love found sounds, and there is plenty of this lurking in each track, from the opener, ‘Être’ where water laps a shore or bank to album closer ‘^tre’ with its background of children and birds. The music incorporates lounge pop, African jazz, hip-hop, and sound collage in addition to house and pinches of dubstep.

The entire album is below, give it a go and you’ll see what i mean.

1. “Être” 4:49
2. “Colomb” 3:22
3. “Sunflower” 0:48
4. “Too Many Kids Finding Rain in the Dust” 3:28
5. “Keep Me There” 5:21
6. “I Got a Woman” 4:08
7. “Problem with the Sun” 3:52
8. “Space Is Only Noise If You Can See” 5:42
9. “Almost Fell” 2:32
10. “Balance Her in Between Your Eyes” 3:45
11. “Specters of the Future” 1:58
12. “Trace” 0:23
13. “Variations” 3:21
14. “^tre” 2:56

The official follow up to ‘Space Is Only Noise’ was released a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t know, I was in the same shop and asked as I saw Jaar on the cover of free magazine, ‘Crack’, well, free in music shops anyway, check it out, it’s good The album, ‘Sirens’, has a rather brilliant cover concept. Sort of, it entirely depends on whether you need your covers to be ‘Mint’ or not. The album comes in a plastic wallet and includes a US 5 cent coin. The cover itself is made of scratch card material so you can scratch it off to reveal the image beneath. I’m not overly concerned about keeping my covers perfect, but this one irks me. Here’s the transition:




Currently mine looks like the first picture and I’m hesitant to even open the thing at the risk of damaging the cover with the coin, which is inevitable, so I’ve only listened to the album digitally at this point. It is a progression from his debut, still with the same sense of space but more song oriented I feel. I still like it, but haven’t had a chance to live with it for as long as his first, but have a listen yourself and see what you think. The opening eleven minute track ‘Killing Time’ is a wonderful thing.

1. “Killing Time” 11:14
2. “The Governor” 6:50
3. “Leaves” 3:30
4. “No” 6:34
5. “Three Sides of Nazareth” 9:55
6. “History Lesson”

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