Nicolas Jaar—Space Is Only Noise (Circus Company, 2011)

Nicolas Jaar’s Space is Only Noise is a slow-grower that somehow manages to gently fit the sonorous musings of Leonard Cohen and Robbie Robertson into a framework of modal techno and downbeat micro jazz.  There is a bit of saxophone, French spoken word, classical piano and café-compatible mood music here too, so one can be forgiven for initially writing this off as trivial background stuff to decorate your apartment with.  But really, this is headphone music of the highest order, weird and extremely re-playable.  “Problems with the Sun” is as quirky as it is ruminative and sounds like what DJ Screw would have managed if he pitched way down African-American work songs of the early 1900’s instead of Houston hip-hop.  Somehow, when time slows down to a syrupy crawl like this, one can balance worries about not getting enough accomplished with the fact that the clock is broken and it is impossible to keep track.  Space is Only Noise is a world apart from contemporary EDM and you can expect Jaar to get the time right more than twice here over its fourteen tracks.  These decidedly minor (some long, some extremely short) pieces that he cobbled together from years of recordings are miles apart from his work alongside Dave Harrington as Darkside, but resonate just as strongly.  Once that side-project ceases this fall, if Jaar is as prolific as has been intimated online, I have high hopes for future patchwork LP’s which may just still sound like what was once best about Isolée, Matthew Herbert, Deadbeat and even Mr. Cohen.  For now, Jaar is still our man when it comes to nearly uncategorizable electronic music so small that you could practically sweep it under any rug—one that you would gladly then dance upon.

Vincent Zed

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