Nicolas Jaar: The boy in the bubble heads to Body and Soul
Body & Soul headliner Nicolas Jaar makes music like no-one else – and he has the prism to prove it
Nicolas Jaar: "The real beauty in music is finding something sacred deep inside"
Nicolas Jaar makes music to dream to. You can hear it in the rich, deep, complex and atmospheric span of his debut album Space Is Only Noise. You can feel it in the blend he put together for a mesmerising BBC Radio One Essential Mix, which stitched Jay-Z, Beyoncé and ’Nsync into the fabric of an ingenuous, emotional two-hour grand parade of high-grade ambience.
You can also sense it in the remixes he’s knocked out of tracks by Shlohmo and Nina Simone or those throwaway one-off EPs in his back catalogue. Jaar makes organic, fullbodied soul music for daydreaming space cowboys and cowgirls.
When Jaar makes music, he thinks about people. “Often, what I do is based on people I have strong connections with, like my best friends. I’m not trying to do a specific something, just trying to be honest with what’s inside.
“Improvising has always been the most exciting way to get at something new and internal. The music I make tends to be going against the really fast, harsh techno sound, against the whole clubby aspect of it. It’s kind of also going against the drug aspect of it and the wasted aspect of it. It appeals more to emotions, it’s much slower.”
The music is also much sadder too. “My favorite music in the world is sad, and I think I always thought sad music had more of an effect. But I’m realising now that not everything has to be sad or dark to be special. That was the first phase of my creative thinking. Now I’m thinking that pain or melancholy can actually be something really beautiful and complex.”
Jaar started out making music about a decade ago when he was 14 years of age. The New York-born kid, who had lived in Santiago in Chile for a few years after his parents separated, decided to try his hand at electronic music. It could have been hip-hop – he was a big fan of Coolio’s Gangsta b’s Paradise – but he went for the abstract beats instead.
“I had heard an album by Ricardo Villalobos called Thé Au Harem D’Archimède and I thought it was really interesting. I was into minimal at the time, that kind of experimental minimal where you didn’t put a big beat underneath, and that’s how it started. I thought it had something you couldn’t do with rock or hop-hop.”
By the time Jaar got around to releasing records a few years later, he’d found a sound. That beautiful hinterland between so many different shapes and sounds, from jazz to electronica, was to be a happy hunting ground for Jaar, a musician whose tracks always sounded both of the moment and defiantly unfashionable.