Music

Waveform: New Highlights in the Electronic Underground - 2/16/11

Despite frequent outings for someone who’s barely 20, nothing could prepare Nicolas Jaar’s admirers or the general listening public for what he's done on Space Is Only Noise.

Despite frequent outings for someone who’s barely 20, nothing could prepare Nicolas Jaar’s admirers or the general listening public for what he's done on Space Is Only Noise. House is hardly anywhere to be found here, techno neither, though some of Jaar’s synth lines could certainly qualify. The tempos Jaar are working in are owed largely to hip-hop, and the rest of Jaar’s soundscapes are perplexing, disarming, and utterly dreamlike.

Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise (Circus Company)

As James Blake is gushed about by the critical cacophony, a different young wunderkind will likely be overlooked. Twenty-year-old Nicolas Jaar is at least as deceptively related to the electronic music community as Blake, his affiliation lying with house and techno rather than dubstep. Each has taken bold sonic risks within these genres, and Jaar in particular is drawing on a musical palette that is noticeably rich with influences.

Born in New York, Jaar moved with his family to Santiago, Chile during his pre-teens and then returned to New York for high school. By virtue of this early cultural exposure and armed with an insatiable musical curiosity, Jaar draws on Latin jazz and hip-hop producers like the late J Dilla and Madlib, two musicians whose own productions have deep and eclectic sample pedigrees and musical influences.

On Jaar’s debut album Space Is Only Noise for the Circus Company imprint, he follows an already somewhat deep catalog of EPs, 12” releases, and remixes for the likes of trendy New York house label Wolf + Lamb, as well as Jaar’s own Clown and Sunset label. Despite these frequent outings for someone who’s barely 20, nothing could prepare Jaar’s admirers or the general listening public for what he as done on Space Is Only Noise. House is hardly anywhere to be found here, techno neither, though some of Jaar’s synth lines could certainly qualify. The tempos Jaar is working in are owed largely to hip-hop, and the rest of Jaar’s soundscapes are perplexing, disarming, and utterly dreamlike.

The album begins with the song “Etre”, where the lapping of waves on a shore usher the listener into a short rumination on bodies and water, before wan piano flourishes come in and out of children’s laughter, mysterious clicks and stretches, and a man’s digitally manipulated vocal exercises. Water flows right into the second track, “Colomb”, where additional pops and hisses preface moody organ and the first and fully memorable beat of the record.

The remainder of the record continues to explore the first track’s tension between cinematic, even literary glimpses and songs bordering on pop. At one point on album highlight “Keep Me There”, an at once jarring, screaming saxophone gets pitched up and down with a ferocity that bespeaks the album’s ultimate vulnerability. Jaar’s emotional honesty is not with out lenses though, and this is where he draws on electronic music’s endless sound possibilities to clutter and even drown voice, rhythm, and melody with spontaneity and a young dreamer’s aimless drift.

Future Times Mix for Resident Advisor’s "Label of the Month"

The previous year saw a significant amount of attention paid to house and techno’s golden age. Whether it was young UK producers taking the breakbeat of UK garage and dubstep and fusing it with classic house and techno sound palettes, or well-established Netherlands record store and label Rush Hour’s excellent re-issues of house legends like Virgo, the pushes forward were often looking backward. This too was the case, however more quietly, of New York retro-futurist house label Future Times. In this in-depth article in Resident Advisor’s “Label of the Month”, it’s clear that Future Times has been mounting a subtle American revolution of Western Europe’s more dominant electronic music presence., and in large part due to the label’s shameless nostalgia for '90s New York and Chicago. Accompanying the article is a lush, deeply persuasive collection of the Future Times catalog, expertly paired alongside progenitors like Drexcyia and Mood II Swing. Keep an eye on Future Times artists like Salva and Maximillion Dunbar, they’re certain to be in demand overseas, but let's hope they don’t become ex-pats in Berlin like so many before them.

Download: Future Times Mix for Resident Advisor

Jessie Ware & Sampha - "Valentine"

Singer and producer Sampha has made a name for himself in the UK through some choice collaborations with of-the-moment UK dance music producers like SBTRKT. Sampha's own music is airy, electronic soul and R&B, and on this Valentines Day special Sampha teamed with singer Jessie Ware who is equally fresh on the UK scene. This duet is as heartbreaking as it is heart-pounding; Ware's harmonies a staggering falsetto to Sampha's warm, fireside blanket.

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