Nicolas Jaar – ‘Space Is Only Noise’ (Circus Company)

An awful lot of fuss has been made over Nicolas Jaar since the 2008 release of ‘The Student EP’, his first clutch of organic, misleadingly mature material by Wolf+Lamb at the tender age of seventeen. Articles and interviews on the young Chilean producer have appeared everywhere from Pitchfork and Dazed & Confused to The Guardian and The BBC’s websites. Nearly all have made the link to fellow Chilean Ricardo Villalobos, quoted Seth Troxler’s “one of the most talented minds dance music is about to see develop” statement, and chucked adjectives like “ambient”, “meditative” and, most commonly, “idiosyncratic” about until the eyes bleed. Everyone’s wanted a piece, and rightly so. None of the fawning hypebole lavished upon young Nico has been undeserved. His output to date has marked him as one of the most precociously uninhibited musicians to emerge for years, defying categorisation and challenging pre-conceptions of electronic composition and performance but has left one wondering how this glaring scrutiny would affect the debut long-player of someone barely out of his teens, and balancing a hectic international tour schedule with a degree in Comparitive Literate at Browns. These concerns are blown squarely out of the water on the first listen of ‘Space Is Only Noise’, probably one of the most calmly assured and unassumingly engaging albums that’s likely to be released this year.

As the lapping waves and sampled film dialogue of intro ‘Etre’ wash into the mournful, haunting Rhodes chords of ‘Colomb’, it’s clear that you’d better sit down, strap in and remove your shoes for this one. Passing through the lilting, guitars and lamentingly bizarre vocals of ‘Too Many Kids Finding Rain In The Dust’, the Ray Charles sampling ‘I Got A Woman’, the gritty, indescribably sad falsetto of ‘Balance Her In Between Your Eyes’ and the etherial grooves of ‘Variations’, Jaar slowly, confidently wraps you up in a warm, resonant blanket of finely tuned sound design and subtly implied melody. Drawing from folk, blues, hip-hop, IDM-y techno, classical, ethio-jazz and musique concrete with carefully chosen, expertly placed samples, plus Jaar’s own naively doleful treated vocals, this stuff is impossible to categorise. But the bewilderingly varied melting-pot of sonic sketches doesn’t really feel contrived at any point. This is a young, hungry musician using all the sounds and methods available to him to create something truly original and exciting for his own ends. It’s a muddled and beautifully human collection of noises, compiled with indirect purpose, yet clearly realised with a restraint and intimacy that most composers spend their entire careers trying to achieve.

As I’m writing this – my flatmate has been periodically popping his head round the door to ask “what’s this playing now?”. Every time it’s been a track from this album and I think this brings forward an interesting point: the massive pool of influences and styles this album draws from can, at first glance, seem unrelated; there’s simply so much diversity; so many different points of interest on the ride – but in the context of the album, they coalesce into something that’s so much greater than the sum of its parts. This is an album in the old fashioned sense of the word; perfectly formed composite elements contributing to a clearly realised whole. All in all, staggeringly accomplished. Oh look, there’s some more fawning hyperbole.

Chris Lawes

‘Space Is Only Noise’ is out now on Circus Company.

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