Nicolas Jaar and His Friends

A little while ago I wrote a bit about Valentin Stip, an electronic musician who was signed to the Clown and Sunset record label, founded by Nicolas Jaar as a home for himself and his fellow musicians; now it’s their turn.

It’s true that in the precincts of metropolitan night clubs and big-city house music, and increasingly amongst many of the art-world cognoscenti, Jaar needs no introduction – in fact, the student of comparative literature at Brown University (it’s his day job, so to speak) may already have gotten a bit over-exposed in those circles – but since this talented DJ and electronic musician is still something of a cult figure generally, a few words may be in order here.

Born in New York and raised in part in Santiago – one of his most affecting numbers is entitled “Mi Mujer” – Jaar grew up with the music of Erik Satie and Mulatu Astatke (a jazz musician from Ethiopia who, incidentally, will be performing later in the year in this city) and began to compose electronic works of his own while a teenager. Some time later, while on a field trip in the Southwest organized by a number of high schools (the accounts of their meeting are somewhat apocryphal), he befriended two other young musicians, Nikita Quasim from St. Petersburg and Soul Keita (likewise an Astatke aficionado) from Addis Ababa, and stayed in touch with them afterwards – friendships which resulted in a number of collective albums put out by the record label he would go on to establish. (Though Jaar has a Soundcloud page of his own, the one maintained by the record label is broader and more varied; the selections below are drawn entirely from it.)

Not content to remain in the studio, Jaar has been very busy as a DJ, performing in clubs throughout North America and Europe and at times in South America as well; the playlist on Youtube features several of these appearances, which are really quite fascinating to watch and listen to. The concentration and stamina required of him in this role must be considerable, all the more so as what he does during those hours is, to a great extent, sheer improvisation. (And it could even be – this is a point I should look into further – that during some of them he’s made recordings of ambient noises in the room and then utilized them later the same evening! If so, it would be a procedure that gives a new meaning to the term “feedback.”)

So it isn’t surprising that these performances have become legendary – especially the one lasting around five hours he gave early this year at the Museum of Modern Art/P.S. 1 in New York (of which an excerpt is included in the playlist): it was called “From Scratch.”

Last year he also began to perform with Dave Harrington in a band they’ve named Darkside; the debut, with Soul Keita in attendance as well, was at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, a venue where he’s been playing with increasing frequency.

Well, without further ado, here are some of their numbers on the label’s Soundcloud page.

Nicolas Jaar, “Russian Dolls.”

Nikita Quasim, “L’Amour, l’après-midi.”

Soul Keita, “Monjitas.”

Nikita Quasim, “Framboises.”

Nicolas Jaar, “Time for Us.”

Nicolas Jaar, “Love Teacher.”

Nicolas Jaar, “The Student.”

Nicolas Jaar, “Mi Mujer.”

Nicolas Jaar, “Materials.”

Nicolas Jaar, “Wouh.”

Nicolas Jaar, “Dubliners.”

And Soul Keita, “Dusties ’n 808s.”