Live Review: Nicolas Jaar @ Fonda Theatre, October 27, 2016


It’s unfair, really, to be so talented–a producer, DJ, songwriter, singer, good looking, at all of twenty-six, and if that weren’t enough, he can pick up a saxophone when need be. This is Nicolas Jaar, of course–NYC-born Chilean musical artist–about the best thing going in electronic/experimental music today. This is the second of two sold out nights at the Fonda Theater, the LA stop of a month-long national tour in support of his excellent new full-length release, Sirens. That’s “release” in the fuller sense of the word, as in let into the world, not the archaic music business term. His records just seem to appear, little advance hype, just a brief note from the man himself, essentially saying “come and get it,” and it’s available digitally at no cost initially. (His Other People label sells high quality digital and a select physical vinyl pressings, including Sirens, the deluxe version of which has a “scratch off” cover, the album art completely covered in lottery ticket film. It helpfully includes a quarter for scratching.)

The records, though, particularly the LPs (Space is only noise [2011], Pomegranates [2015], Sirens), stand as their own thing, quite distinct from the Nicolas Jaar live show. On the recordings, atmosphere and texture are first and foremost–sparse and sexy, languid 3 a.m. in the city down-tempo sound collages, samples and synthesized sounds woven together and mangled oh so tastefully with electronics. These pieces with lots of negative space reward patience and come together in groove and melody (including his own voice) less and less frequently in his releases, earning those pleasures after some searching in the soundscapes.

Live, however, the groove and the beat are the priority. His set, performed on a simple set up–a keyboard, a couple of filter boxes, sampler, mixer, all tied together with a laptop–is divided into clear tidy sections delineated by pauses in the sound and lighting. The moody atonal collages of the records drift in and out and are quicker to transition into dance grooves, the requisite builds and drops that get the crowd moving. From the first 909 kick after a lengthy noise intro, it’s clear the crowd was here to dance. (This may well apply to his online audience as well: his early 12″ “Mi Mujer,” one of his most rhythmic, danceable tracks leads his Spotify spins by a wide margin. [He drops it in the second encore tonight.]) Jaar does not disappoint. The set ebbs and flows, sifts through snippets and noodles, but always finding its rhythm and grooves–tight synth lines, punchy kicks and subsonic bass, cutting right to the essence of the tracks, no superfluous melody to distract, this is mean and lean electronic stuff. To close out the main set, he grabs that sax to add some extra noise to the mix. The diversity of the crowd in age and styles–ranging from tanned Euro house muscleheads, dreadlocked tokers, ravers, indie kids, absurdly pretty model types, etc–is testament to the rare, wide reach of Jaar both on record and as renowned live act. I don’t know if there is anyone cutting quite the same path today, or that there’s anyone, really, who could.


Nicolas Jaar |

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