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 http://crackmagazine.net/. 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:

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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”

What’s in the bag? (50)

I like Nicolas Jaar, and I had never heard of Dave Harrington, though I was reasonably confident he wasn’t the Darts player from New Zealand. So I took a punt on double LP ‘Psychic’ by Darkside. I wasn’t disappointed. Everything I liked by Jaar is in there, and the collaboration with Harrington has produced a fuller sound, that allows it’s influences to show through without allowing them to dominate. The band name itself gives an idea of some of the textures that evolve on this record, and something by ‘Can’ was playing between takes in the studio, my guess is that ‘Tago Mago’ was on at some point. Not that this is an attempt at re-creating things that have gone before, it has a freshness, an inventiveness that invites you in and then messes with your head a bit.

The album was released on October 4, 2013 and recorded over the course of two years between Jaar’s home in New York City, Harrington’s family barn in Upstate New York and somewhere in Paris. As far as I know there will be no follow up as the collaboration was never intended to be a long running project, and, to be frank, they have a hell of a lot to live up to as ‘Psychic’ is an extraordinary piece of work, absolutely spoiled by the fact that it plays at 45RPM. Now I appreciate that this isn’t a problem for most people, especially those that aren’t listening on vinyl. But to play a 45 I have to take my turntable apart, move a belt and put it back together again, which is a pain. OK, it doesn’t ruin it, it just causes me a minor inconvenience which I’m sure wasn’t deliberate.

The opening track, ‘Golden Arrow’ was pre-released as a free download, and comes in at a hefty 11 minutes and 20 seconds. Spin gave the track a positive review, describing it as “11 minutes of instrumental excellence.” They were right, it is. Atmospheric, abstract and perhaps surprisingly, it has quite a groove going on as it evolves from noise, to down tempo disco to a Krautrock-ish finale.

I’ve listened to this album a dozen times now, and my appreciation of it grows at each listen. I doubt the album will be heard by as many people as it deserves to be heard by as the songs aren’t constructed in a way that hooks people like a pop chorus can, it is more of a slow burner, but it is worth the investment of time to get to know it, and get to love it. It is 45 minutes and 8 seconds of a little bit odd, but good odd, dark odd, and, occasionally, David Gilmour on guitar, surely using Dave Harrington as a pseudonym.

I think I shall start using a rating system, which will probably end up being a bit NUMBERWANG! And it will be out of 100, as 5 is too little, so is ten, and 59 makes it too difficult and unnecessary. So, for ‘Psychic’ by Darkside I am going for:

9.1/10

And here is a video of track 8: Metatron