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Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only A Noise review

It would be no lie to suggest that Nicolas Jaar’s debut album, Space Is Only Noise, is one of the most anticipated electronic albums of 2011. And with good reason; through a variety of celebrated releases on Wolf + Lamb and Clown & Sunset, Jaar has developed a sound and style that’s unlike anything we’ve heard before.

Regular Jaar listeners will have come accustomed to his distinctive musical voice; those heart-aching piano figures, intensely beautiful vocal samples and hypnotic percussion patterns formed from a heady mix of found sounds, white noise and vintage vinyl crackle. It’s a style that rewards repeat listens and lends itself to the album format far more than the humble 12” single.

It’s perhaps fitting, then, that Space Is Only A Noise is a true album – a 46-minute journey that’s worth far more than the sum of its parts. If there is a concept – and it’s a loose one, at that – it would be blues. Through his use of off-kilter library samples, barely audible jazz singers, his own pain-drenched vocals and slow, considered piano motifs, Jaar explores a very 21st century take on the blues. His fusion of the traditional, unusual and the ethereal is, at times, stunning – far-sighted downtempo music for a generation reared not on cheeky 90s ambient house but dub techno epics and Matthew Herbert albums.

At its most basic, Space Is Only A Noise is an utterly mesmerizing audio soup – a kind of dimly-lit late night trip into the heart of the American deep south with little more than a vintage transistor radio for company. As debuts go, it’s breathtaking.

Matt Anniss