mon 15/07/2024

Nicolas Jaar, The Roundhouse | reviews, news & interviews

Nicolas Jaar, The Roundhouse

Nicolas Jaar, The Roundhouse

Most prestigious date yet for the Chilean-American king of one-man electronica

Nicolas Jaar contemplates space being only noise if you can see

The Roundhouse is a melee of moneyed cosmopolitan twentysomething trendies. The beautiful people are out in force. My God, there are some delicious women and men here, expensively dressed, uptown couture to the hilt, a hefty smattering of languages from around the globe. Unexpectedly, for me at least, 22-year-old Chilean-American electronica prodigy Nicolas Jaar has the most chi-chi gig in London tonight.

This is not a plus – the queues at the bar are half-an-hour long, dilettante party people buying rounds of exotic shots and bottles of bubbly, waving wodges of tenners about. And while Jaar’s music is narcotically spacey, the atmosphere is resolutely straight, smug and self-regarding, as if we’re awaiting the first UK appearance of Lana del Rey or similar. You just HAVE to be here and then tomorrow night you just HAVE to be somewhere else. I love London but some nights it loves itself a lot more.

Nicolas Jaar first popped up on the fringes of a rising American deep house scene half a decade ago. A soul-tinted but fuggy, ketamine-scoped flavour had started appearing courtesy of DJ-producers such as Wolf + Lamb. In fact it was Wolf + Lamb’s Gadi Misrahi who first spotted talent in the 17-year-old Jaar, encouraging him, releasing his music and allowing him to bloom in a way that’s eventually pushed him well outside any niche club category.  His debut album Space is Only Noise topped 2011 polls in multiple magazines, including club bible Mixmag, and tonight the 3-300-capacity venue is sold out.

jaarIt’s clear Jaar, who grew up in Santiago de Chile and New York, and attended Brown University on Rhode Island, one of America’s eight Ivy League institutions, is no rave-tastic nutter. His website’s very brief biography states that he was “haunted by” Ethiopian percussion-led jazzer Mulatu Astatke and Parisian composer Erik Satie. These are apt reference points. Jaar has sneaked into public consciousness via clubland but his music is actually aimed at a more cerebral electronica audience, albeit tinged with a lovely drugginess. There is a point where dance music starts being taken seriously by London’s cultural arbiters of hip, and Jaar, with his enigmatic stew of abstract electronica, minimalist computer psychedelia and art gallery ambient very much crosses that divide. And make no mistake, Jaar’s album is futuristic, brilliantly imaginative, essential.

After warm-up sets by associates Soul Keita and Acid Pauli from his Clown & Sunset label, Jaar appears onstage at 10 pm. When I saw Jaar at Glastonbury he had a band – drums, guitar, saxophone, keyboards, him on a laptop. They all performed in a circle and Jaar appeared to be discovering a way to do his strange wonderful music live. They were a group learning each other and I was looking forward to seeing how much tighter they’d become. Tonight, however, it’s mostly just him, a serious-looking young man, his laptop and few keyboards, alone on the large stage, a big screen above him featuring bland rolling black-and-white film imagery. It seems a strangely plain, low-key set-up for what must be his most prestigious gig to date.

He begins with a 15-minute piano and laptop glitch intro that blooms slowly, impeccably into a bass throb. Jaar is king of the sonic tease, withholding the impending explosion that great dance music promises, only allowing it out in percussive fragments. He dips and dives about his album and taps into the pulsing 4/4 energy of his early EPs, opening out into with the likes of “And I Say”, the lazily smart groover he created with Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter Scout Larue, a college friend. The crowd are enthused, jogging gently and sinuously, dancing the way cool people do, many with eyes closed, looking like they’re at a yoga class. No one breaks a sweat or lets go. I’d give 20 quid to see someone gurning.

Jaar brings on guitarist Dave Harrington who adds twangy flavour to tunes from last year’s “Darkside" EP. He stays as Jaar builds the groove, slamming into “Space is Only Noise If You Can See”, one of my very favourite tunes of last year, a mantric ominous techno classic, so sonically far ahead of the competition. He delivers it hard with edge. After a sojourn offstage, the crowd whooping, he comes back on for “two more”. I can only stay for one as I turn into a pumpkin at midnight which could prove embarrassing amongst all these well turned out international lovelies. I hope Jaar didn’t bring on George Michael, Joey Beltram and Steven Seagal for a final jam. I leave, pushing my way through the gym-toned ranks of jiggling bods, coiffeurs firmly in place as they sway, each in their own Fellini movie, to the bump of Jaar’s sedately mesmeric electronic dance music.

Watch the video for "Materials"

Jaar is king of the sonic tease, withholding the impending explosion that great dance music promises


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article


I totally get your points on the crowd last night but HEY I am in my early 30s, and I was in the 1st line and I was properly dancing and shouting and sweating - and there were a few of us there, perhaps a minority...

you should have been at the front - the gurns were plentiful

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters