Culture, Dance / Electro, Live Reviews — January 24, 2013 at 10:04 am

Laneway Sneak Peek: Nicolas Jaar

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With Singapore’s 3rd Laneway festival just days away, excitement is mounting as some of the world’s top electronic, alternative and indie acts roll into the country. There are particular rumblings in the electronic community, as down tempo poster boy Nicolas Jaar makes his first major visit to Singapore. Just days before the event, our electronic correspondent Rory got a chance to see Jaar’s show first hand Sydney to bring you a sneak peek of what to expect from the Chilean-American producer.

Nicolas Jaar’s music is a far cry for the ego driven pop culture of today. It has an age and honesty that goes well beyond his 22 years, a fact that has quickly earned him acclaim and recognition worldwide. Fittingly, Nicolas makes no grand gestures when he arrives on stage beyond a warm smile and expression of pleasure to finally be in this part of the world. With a rumbling of speakers and flurry of ambient samples any disciple of “Space is Only Noise” will recognise, the show begins.

True to his melancholy form, Jaar’s set begins gently, slowly building into a hazy, thick and almost underwater musical mass. Accompanied on stage by Darkside partner Dave Harrington‘s guitar and Will Epstein‘s haunting Sax, there is no shortage of echoes and crescendos as the melodies dreamily build. Jaar himself splits focus between beat programming, melodic keyboard and vox, leading his compositions effortlessly through an organic development. Indeed, the show is so well produced that one hardly notices its programmed nature. What must surely be pre-planned movements seem like casual additions as Jaar delves through pieces and works from his years of original output.

After 25 minutes of building and shifting, the first section of music finishes. Just how many songs have passed is anyone’s guess but through the snippets of John the Revelator and  steadily evolving beats, the mood in the room has definitely shifted. After only a few moments for applause Jaar launches in to his second section, this time playing up to the crowd’s desire with an array of tracks from his widely renowned LP. With some chordy album re-works and new takes on “Too Many Kids Finding Rain In The Dust“, “Time for Us” and “Space Is Only Noise” all featured, the middle section is definitely the crowd pleaser.

What was most surprising in this section was the “Blu-Wave” tragic’s willingness to pump up the tempo and work the crowd. The usually droning “Space is Only Noise” got sped to the point of obscurity, giving the sombre track new life with a full build and drop treatment. Jaar’s tendency to play with speed is no secret, impressively, the group never skipped a beat carrying off their complex, time-shifting performance. Predictably, the second wave of relatable music came to a close with a faux finale and explosion of applause – and rightfully so. The producer’s reworks and edits are original and accessible, inviting the listener without favouring that fanatics.

Returning for an encore, Jaar brings the best of both worlds with tempo shifting reworks of some of his lesser known tunes. Shifting from a surprisingly summery 90’s rework to an adaptation of his Azari & III remix, Jaar finished things on a high with a fully live rendition of his acoustic-based party jam “Mi Mujer” – warbling vocals and all. It’s a phenomenal ending to a fantastic performance that fully backs his much acclaimed originality and ability.

Nicolas is now heading to Singapore to play the annual Laneway Festival on Saturday, 26th of January. The specialised acts of the Festival’s Asian leg mean you can see all 12 hours of music without missing a beat. If  you want my tip though, I’d be hanging around the front of Stage 1 at 5:50 to see first hand why Nicolas Jaar has been one of the biggest hype builders of the last 2 years.