Nicolas Jaar: Underground Intellectual And Transcendental Creator

College does not always look good on everyone. The ever so present pressure to create something special, to transform oneself, and to be above average brilliant can often times shatter one’s dreams. However, Nicolas Jaar somehow managed to do all of the above with effortless style and genius poise while studying Comparative Literature at Brown University. He started his own record label and art house, remixed an array of intriguing electronic tracks, defied musical genres, and performed at major festivals all over the world before graduating. He’s now the catalyst for a new wave of slow beats, pushing for emotional resonance over speed and exploring the club scene on a conceptual level. Yes, the guy is an intellectual inside and out.

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Listen To Nicolas Jaar’s Podcast In Memory Of John Lennon

If you’d like to stop time for a little bit, you’re in luck. Production mastermind Nicolas Jaar commemorated the 33rd anniversary of John Lennon’s death yesterday with an hour-long podcast. Kicking off with samples of an interview with the Beatles legend and the announcement of his death, the mix builds into a striking early winter atmosphere. (Not to ruin the surprise, but apparently electronic prodigies are as fascinated by Walmart fights as the rest of us peons.)

The podcast was released as part of Jaar’s subscription-based label Other People, but you can download it for free on SoundCloud. Check it out below and catch up on BlackBook’s recent interview with Jaar on his new album with Darkside.

BlackBook Tracks #45: Fall Back

This week is weird for everyone, right? Daylight Savings Time threw everything off by one cursed hour and Mercury’s still in retrograde. I knew I would get sick if I stayed up past my bedtime to go to M.I.A.’s release party, so naturally I’m on my third day of gently hacking up a lung. (It was totally worth it, though.) These are the jams, even if you’re not popping DayQuil every four hours.

Botany ft. Father John Misty – “Laughtrack”

Botany might not seem like the most obvious moniker for an electronic producer, but Spencer Stephenson poses a serious challenge for anyone who thinks the genre can’t sound warm and organic. The Texan artist just released his first record, Lava Diviner (Truestory), but he has plenty more up his sleeve. On this non-album track, Father John Misty’s soft vocals feature over a beat that’s heavy and bubbly at the same time. Lava Diviner (Truestory) is out now on Western Vinyl.

Grizzly Bear – “Sleeping Ute” (Nicolas Jaar remix)

Indie rock heavyweights Grizzly Bear are gearing up to put out the deluxe edition of their fourth album Shields. This stretched-out version of “Sleeping Ute” has been around since being issued as a limited 12” for Record Store Day earlier this year, but it’ll be making another appearance as a bonus track alongside other remixes and previously unreleased B-sides. If I get hit by a car this weekend because I can’t move my sorry feet fast enough, play this at my funeral. Shields Expanded is out November 12 on Warp.

Kitty – “Second Life”

Kitty (formerly Kitty Pryde) is tired of playing the waiting game with her upcoming LP, so she’s shared “Second Life” in advance. The internet rap princess has her head in the clouds as she rhymes over a cotton candy-flavored beat courtesy of Anamanaguchi and PinkiePieSwear. The result is soft as snow, but warm inside. Look out for the albumFlowerviolence whenever the people in charge are ready to put it out.

Moonface – “Everyone Is Noah, Everyone Is The Ark”

While former Wolf Parade bandmate Dan Boechner has been rocking out with Britt Daniel as part of Divine Fits, Spencer Krug has moved on to making pared-down piano fare under the name Moonface. This is his simplest project yet, but the effect is still bold and totally arresting. The album Julia With Blue Jeans On is out now on Jagjaguwar.

Air – “Playground Love”

This is undoubtedly one of the most soothing songs ever committed to record. The French duo’s soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides is legendary, and “Playground Love” is a big reason why. The sax and synths woven together are enough to make anyone a hopeless romantic, and the whole package is a cocoon-like tribute to doomed youth.

Exploring the Darkside With Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington

Nicolas Jaar has always been described as a wunderkind—a brilliantly talented and eclectic old soul lurking inside the body of a Brown student whose cultivated sound stemmed from a wealth of influences to create something entirely unique. But Jaar is no longer a kid, and since graduating has continued to hone his craft and perfect his experimental and intricate sound with fellow schoolmate Dave Harrington to form Darkside—a complex and dark exploration into the musical depths lying just beyond their subconscious. Since he first began releases BBC mixes, we’re been keeping a close eye on Jaar’s evolution as an artist, his collaborations, and the delicate care in which he takes in making music that only gets better with time. 

It’s been three years since his solo debut Space is Only Noise and today marks the release of Darkside’s hypnotic and skin-tinglingly good Psychic. Ideal for black velvet nights filled with pensive wandering (or dancing, really) through cold streets and submergence into pure feeling, there’s a sensuous bite to their sound, which echoes the statement that Jaar wants his music to “hit bodies.” With palpable beats and smokey cool melodies that bury you deep in their rich sonic universe, people have referred to Darkside’s sound as something that requires patience or has a very “heady” vibe to it. But if you’re trying to intellectualize each song too much, you’re really missing the point, because what Psychic does best is allow you to have an experience between the notes as you allow yourself to let go and let sensation to take hold and really taste the textures of their layered world. Created from the natural flow of time and juxtaposed by what organically floats to the surface and manufactured synthetic production, Darkside has returned with an all-encompassing album you’re going to want to sink into time and time again, forcing your heartbeat to slow down in time with their rhythms—whether it’s the more trance-inducing haunting tracks or the deliciously upbeat hip-swingers
A few weeks back I got a chance to talk with Jaar and Harrington about their grand collaboration, the spontaneity of creative process, and the pleasure of performance.
Can you tell me about the beginnings of Darkside—how did you two come together?
Nicolas Jaar: Right after I put out my first record, I was trying to find a band to play those songs. So I asked my friend who the best musician he knew was, and he said this guy called Dave but he plays bass only. So I thought, okay, maybe he can play guitar as well. I did an informal audition where we just jammed for a while, and I really enjoyed playing with him. I liked the fact that he was a bassist and thought like a bassist and that fit with my music at the time. Four months later we were bored in a hotel in Berlin and we were using these two tiny speakers with a really shitty converter, and for two hours we made this song and then the speakers totally exploded on us. The whole room filled with smoke and the electricity cut out, but we had this first song made. So we were like, wow, this is a total omen, we love playing in the dark.
Well, that certainly seems fitting for you two.
NJ: Yeah, and this happens the first time we tried to make this song. So that was A1, and we finished that in the hallway—people were like opening the windows and trying to fix our room. Two or three months later we made a couple more songs because we were in the mood and had such a good time with the first one, and that turned into an EP of three songs. That was around 15 minutes of music, but for some reason we decided to book ourselves a show at Williamsburg Hall of Music. But then we were like oh, why did we book ourselves a show when we only have fifteen minutes of music? That was kind of a weird, stupid mess up on our part. So then we said fuck it, let’s just make 45 more minutes of music and see what we can do. We played that show and ended up selling it out. I don’t know how that happened, since there was one EP and three songs to our name, but we had a really amazing time. We felt like people were reacting as if they knew the songs, but obviously they didn’t because we’d just written 3/4ths of them. So it was really nice and that sparked, in both of us, this thing of like, damn, we should keep on doing this and see where this goes. For most people they start off in their band and then go solo, but I really feel like for me, I started solo and now this is my band. We’re going to have have plenty more years of making records, and it’s going to be my main focus.
What I love about your music—Darkside and solo alike—is how visceral it is. Your songs feel like wading through the thickness of a mood and have an experimental quality that just hits you and isn’t something you want to analyze too heavily.
NJ: Yeah, although sometimes people say the music is heady or whatever. But really honestly, the only thing I want is for it to hit bodies and make people feel things. But I don’t consider music to be a hyper-conceptual art form. The beauty of it is the fact that it is so sexual and so body-driven and physical, and that’s what makes it so exciting to me. Dave and I really enjoy performing together because we feel we both can really bring that out.
You both have vast and layered influences that clearly find their way through in your music, so how do you go about amalgamating your different musical sensibilities to form something cohesive?
Dave Harrington: We’re lucky to have just enough overlap in terms of what we’re interested. Anything that might seem dissperate that Nico or I would bring to the central place of where we think the music should be—which is something we’re still figuring out—it can kind of work its way in. There’s a shared field where we’ve found, through working together, of the things that we both like. But in a way, maybe it’s different from a lot of bands that come together because they’re grew up as friends listening to the same records and playing all the same covers in high school. Nico and I have only known each other for a few years, so we’re still doing this discovery work about each other’s past and musical history as we’re making things and searching for what our sound is going to be. In a way you can hear it coming out through the songs.
When you’re going about making an album, do you begin with a certain theme you want to explore or a particular mood you want to live inside? Was there anything in particular that sparked Psychic?
DH: We’re not very calculated. Not to be evasive about the question, but it’s really just the sound of me and Nico in a room together. The album is the sound of the two of us making this third thing together, so the sounds that are on it, are the sounds we’re interested in. And very simply, the things that we like. What that means sometimes, because we both like lots of different things and we both like things that are dissperate and maybe shouldn’t have anything to do with one another, sometimes we get these lucky collisions and ideas that come out of the two of us in a room. 
There’s something about your music that feels like the moments in between and what’s lurking between the notes. I suppose that comes from the un-calculated moments of what’s floating around between you two. Is there a certain headspace you two find yourself in when you go into a room and create this third presence?
NJ: It’s a domino effect of like, there are things that Dave can do that I can’t do—he can play guitar, he can play bass, he can play drums in a different way than I play drums—and I just enjoy hearing him and listening to him do those things. And those things spark ideas in me, which then spark ideas in him. At its healthiest, that’s what happens; at its unhealthiest, it’s both of us just being super chaotic and jamming and seeing if out of three hours of stupid things we can loop one little thing. But 90% of the time Dave plugs himself in and I start recording instantly, because I know that usually Dave has this tiny nugget of truth somewhere inside of him that always comes out first for some reason. Usually—three or four songs we made this way—he was just tuning and something happens. I always record him because it’s always so good, and we’ve always started so many songs that way—with just a  little chord progression that he did at nine in the morning to see if his guitar was working. So we really believe in this thing of: first idea, best idea. What’s lying around in the first layer of your subconscious is going to be the first thing.
DH: I’d also say something Nico and I talked about amongst ourselves recently, is that I used to think much more conceptually and start from an idea. When I was studying and in school, things were more starting from an idea and going towards an idea, and after a number of years of working that way, I’ve been able to let go of that a little. At a certain point you just trust that there are ideas in there somewhere and they will come out if you let them—which is more of what I’m interested in exploring from now.

What’s your relationship to playing live? Do you find it’s a totally different creative space?
NJ: Definitely. It’s a very different creative space, and being performative is, in some ways, much easier than knowing you’re actually recording something. What might work in a concert might not work in your living room, and what works in a concert is very much based around a lot of different things—the temperature of the room, the amount of people there, the type of people there, the look of the place. It’s nice because you get to be very context-specific. When you’re recording music, the context can be anything; people can be listening to it in a car or the end recording in a church, etc. So we get to change the sound to fit the spaces when you play live, and when recording, you just get one chance to make it as universal as possible. 
What do you enjoy and love in terms of freeing up your mind in a non-musical way?
DH: I just love the shit out of television. I think television is the underdog masterpiece of our time, of the world that we live in. I guess I’m biased because I grew up in a house where my parents were both working in TV news and the TV was on a lot. I didn’t grow up in a house where I wasn’t allowed to watch TV or anything like that, so it’s part of my conditioning. Television is like a magical land you can wander around in if you get bored and that’s how I see it. 
As people who’ve traveled all over and began working at school and now have relocated, is there an ideal space for you when you’re making music, or is more about getting to the right interior headspace?
DH: The environment, for me at least, will inevitably effect what you’re doing. Also, I work very much with gear. I have different gear in different places, and I like going to a studio and using their gear. I have my own little studio and I have certain stuff that’s there, like my childhood drum set and the fender rhodes that I brought on Craigslist in Providence, or broken keyboards or something that a friend of mine shipped to me from China. I leave that there and when I’m at home in Brooklyn, I have my records and a mixer and some rap gear and some reverb units, and that’s what I do there. Certain things, discrete places I let myself kind of do whatever that place is going to allow me to do. On a very logistical level, I think that’s inspirational for me.
I first got into your music by listening to your BBC mixes. Is that something you love doing, blending such dissperate things together and finding new ways to hear them and telling a story?
NJ: I really like telling stories—whether it’s a micro-level like a song that tells a story, or like the mid-level which is an album that tells a story, or a super-macro level which is like my label and other people which I largely curate so over the course of  a year is another kind of story. I like saying: this is chapter one and this is chapter two, and making people question why a story develops in a certain way.
What do you imagine someone is doing when they’re listening to your music–ideally.
NJ: The way I try to make music is like, if you’re listening to it and not doing anything else and concentrating and listening really really hard and listening to every single thing, then hopefully you’re going to get the full picture. I’m not saying it needs concentration at all, but I was a little bummed out when I started realizing some of the songs I made were really just to do the laundry to. But it’s a good thing in a way; in the end, we’re just carpenters, we’re making little tables for people to put things on. Being a musician is a job, it’s a very utilitarian kind of nice thing, and music heals and it can help people and it can make things less boring, and that’s the reason I’m here. It’s what I do, it’s not like a grand thing, it’s just like you have some tools and you make some things and hopefully people like it. 
But that’s the beauty of it, that it can sound one way when you’re doing the laundry and completely different when you’re alone in the dark suspended in its sound.
NJ: Exactly, totally. And that’s exciting to me. 
Are there any people you two would love to work with?
NJ: The thing about collaboration, for me, is that the people that I really respect, I would never want to mess up their music by being a part of it in any way. If I like someone’s music, I feel like it doesn’t need me, it doesn’t need anything else. But I’m waiting for the right hip hop artist to work with; for the past five, six years I’ve been just holding off on that side of me, which is a real big side of me,—which Dave would probably tell you. I really love hip hop and I make a lot of hip hop, but I’ve been holding off and waiting for the right person.
You started making music when you were really young and in school but now you’ve graduated and don’t have that sort of structured work in which to create. Do you feel a sense of freedom as an artist now that you’re older?
NJ: It’s the strangest thing. I feel like I didn’t really realize to what an extent I was in such a little bubble in school until I got out. Now no one is giving me any structure or anything, and you have to create everything yourself. Even plans with friends, you have to like entertain yourself, it’s not like on Wednesdays there’s this thing everyone does and you have to take care of yourself in a whole new way. And for me, the first iteration of that wasn’t freedom, the first iteration of that was noise. I was realizing, truly, how dirty and how noisy everything was, and how much desire was such a part of everyone’s decision making. I guess I got kind of disgusted at first. Now I guess I agree with you, I feel like a newer kind of freedom because the change is definitely very, very strange.

Essential Listening: Nicolas Jaar’s Darkside – ‘Paper Trails’

Anticipation continues to build for Nicolas Jaar’s Darkside with the new track "Paper Trails." Alongside guitarist Dave Harrington, the trailblazing producer is ready to unveil his twisted take on dance rock.

Jaar’s voice is achingly raw, pushed far past the richer style he’s favored in the past but no less loaded with pent-up desire. He’s accompanied by some soulful riffage courtesy of Harrington, and it’s an instantly enchanting combination, even if it’s not your typical pop earworm. "Paper Trails" will appear on the duo’s debut album Psychic, out October 8 on Matador/Other People.

Go Deeper Into Nicolas Jaar’s New Darkside Album, Psychic

Announced last month, sonic wunderkind Nicolas Jaar teamed up with Dave Harrington to release a new album under the name Darkside. They gifted us with the 11 minutes and 20 seconds of their new electronic record that explores the sounds resting between moments and hanging in the vacant space of sahdows, but today have began unraveling the details. Titled Psychic, the album  is to debut on October 8 via Jaar’s new label Other People. Speaking to the themes explored in his work, Jaar told The Avant/Garde Diaries:

There are themes I’ve been really obsessed with in the past year that I’m trying to comprehend through my music. The first theme is noise. It’s very obvious for our time, but I just can’t get away from it. And there are a lot of layers to the idea of noise. I think for the past ten or fifteen years gadgets have excited us. But in the last few years, I started getting very grossed out by technology for the first time. I wanted to get away from it. There is a sort of insanity about being connected. Anyway, what started slowly taking shape in my mind was this idea of broken technology. That’s what noise then became to me. What does a broken computer sound like? What does a broken anything sound like? Usually you end up with clicks and actual pink or white noise. You end up with static and dial-up tones. I think we’ve seen a lot of music that deals with these ideas of technological noise. We’re all trying to get away from noise, and yet we’re getting this immense amount of pleasure from the amount of noise we can have at any given moment.
…I would love to purge all of these bad, noisy things, and go back to a place where I just wanted to talk to you about clouds and birds and water and love. I’ve worked very hard to purge. I hope this is an exorcism. I hope it’s a good sounding one. I hope the screams are good. But I do hope it’s a balance. I hope you go towards the heavens, and then you’re just bored of it so you go towards hell, and back to the heavens. I hope the truth isn’t that youth is a heavenly place and life slowly brings you to hell. I hope it’s more of a beautiful balance where you have to go between one and the other.
…I’m interested in space and what happens between sounds just as much. I don’t think that will change. I wake up in the morning to make everything besides the actual “hits.” The sounds that are not the piano are what interest me in the first place. The space itself inspires me and everything else comes after. It’s more interesting to create a space and then say what happens in this space? Then you have a storyline to work with. The thing that has changed is the process. Before it was simpler. I thought one sound could be changed by another sound I put behind it. I don’t believe in that anymore. I want to put the sounds through the pain of the process. It’s all a little darker, I guess. I like that the sound goes through an actual physical process that is more similar to the process we go through as human beings. The scariest part of thinking about concepts like noise and interference and too much information, is that I can’t stand them. When you make music about these concepts and you put sound though this inevitable process that you hate, you create something that is inherently very ugly. This music I’ve been making in the past year or so is not music that you can listen to and just say this is beautiful. In a way I wish it was, but I’m also trying to be true to myself and true to these ideas.
Psychic will feature:
01 Golden Arrow

02 Sitra

03 Heart

04 Paper Trails

05 The Only Shrine I’ve Seen

06 Freak, Go Home

07 Greek Light

08 Metatron
Take a listen to the first 11 minutes below:


Hear Nicolas Jaar’s Remix of Daft Punk’s Entire ‘Random Access Memories’

Whenever I hear Daft Punk’s first single off Random Access Memories, the heavy swaying delight "Get Lucky," my mind travels to waves breaking on the shore. It’s sunset on a summer’s night, I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a bikini, a mai-tai sits cooly in my hands and everything feels a bit hazy and oh, so wonderful.

But now, even before Daft Punk has had the chance to release remixes of their new album, sonic wunderkind Nicolas Jaar has taken it upon himself to create a remixed version of RAM—in full. He and Dave Harrington, better known as Darkside have given us a refurbished and altered version of the album that puts Daft Punk’s beats on simmer and makes us want to trade in our toes in the sand for some giant Iris-esque wedges and saunter down sticky city streets. 

Take a listen below.

Pitchfork Music Festival Finalizes Lineup: Beach House, Wild Flag & More Join the Fun

Today, Pitchfork added the final batch of bands to its 2012 music festival lineup, well ahead of the July 13-15 weekend where the excitement will go down in Chicago’s Union Park: Beach House, Wild Flag, Real Estate, Atlas Sound, Big K.R.I.T., Nicolas Jaar, Cults, Chavez, Ty Segall, Oneohtrix Point Never, Youth Lagoon, Thee Oh Sees, King Krule, Lotus Plaza, Dirty Beaches, Lower Dens, Milk Music, the Psychic Paramount, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Outer Minds, and A Lull. The festival might not ever be as fun as the year when they sold Sparks at the beer tents, but sometimes life forces you to make sacrifices for sanity’s sake. You can look at the final lineup, which is looking pretty healthy, after the click.

Pitchfork, in my opinion, is the best deal in national music festivals. For the cost of a one-way plane ticket, you get to see dozens of relevant, high quality bands at varying points in their life cycle: buzz acts finding their live presence, indie veterans who’ve settled into a comfortable set list, and the random top-shelf name brand gifted with a headlining set for a crowd that’s absolutely reveretial of their presence. And the people watching! The people watching is absolutely superb. Three-day passes are sold out, though you can still purchase individual one-day tickets if that weekend is still looking free on your schedule.  

Friday, July 13:

A$AP Rocky
Willis Earl Beal
Big K.R.I.T.
Clams Casino
Dirty Projectors
Tim Hecker
Lower Dens 
The Olivia Tremor Control
Outer Minds 
Purity Ring

Saturday, July 14:

The Atlas Moth
Atlas Sound 
Danny Brown
Cloud Nothings
Flying Lotus
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Hot Chip
Nicolas Jaar 
Lotus Plaza 
The Psychic Paramount 
Schoolboy Q
Sleigh Bells
Wild Flag 
Youth Lagoon 

Sunday, July 15:

A Lull 
Beach House 
Dirty Beaches 
The Field
King Krule 
Kendrick Lamar
The Men
Milk Music 
Thee Oh Sees 
Oneohtrix Point Never 
Real Estate 
Ty Segall 
Unknown Mortal Orchestra 
Vampire Weekend