Nicolas Jaar is one of the least predictable and most experimental dance music producers of the late 2000s and 2010s, composing reflective downtempo numbers indebted to jazz and modern classical as well as minimal techno.
After establishing his name throughout the techno scene for his early EPs and singles, he reached a wider audience with the release of his acclaimed debut album, Space Is Only Noise, in 2011. He formed a neo-psychedelic duo called Darkside with multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington; their only full-length, 2013's Psychic, was also heavily praised. While Jaar's subsequent work under his own name often moved in a more abstract direction, he continued making dance music under pseudonyms such as A.A.L. (Against All Logic), eventually collecting the project's work on the 2018 full-length 2012-2017.
Jaar was born in New York but spent much of his early childhood in Santiago de Chile -- the birthplace of his father, Alfredo Jaar, an artist and filmmaker -- until he moved back to New York before his teens. In 2004, while under the spell of Ethiopian jazz and Erik Satie, Jaar began to feel his way through music production and made something of a breakthrough after his father bought him copies of Ricardo Villalobos' Thé au Harem d'Archimède and Luomo's Vocal City. While incorporating his obsessions and recent discoveries into his music, he came into contact with Wolf + Lamb's Gadi Mizrahi and ended up making his debut for the label in 2008. Titled The Student, the five-track digital release made it apparent that Jaar owed something to the roiling, elongated, percussion-heavy productions of Villalobos. Vinyl releases for Wolf + Lamb and Circus Company followed across 2009 and 2010.
Space Is Only Noise, Jaar's first album, was released on Circus in 2011. The widely eclectic album was a huge critical success, earning Jaar fans from both the dance and indie rock worlds. The original pressing of the album included a song featuring an uncleared sample of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" -- the track was omitted from later pressings. Jaar formed a live band featuring guitarist Dave Harrington and keyboardist Will Epstein, and the trio toured behind the album for three years, earning further acclaim. Jaar and Harrington also formed a duo called Darkside, releasing a self-titled EP in 2011 and the full-length Psychic (on Matador) in 2013. Psychic was another critical success, and it charted in the Billboard Top 200 album chart. The duo toured in support of the album before disbanding in 2014.
Jaar continued producing, remixing, performing, and DJ'ing as a solo artist. He also started a label called Other People, which issued his own material as well as releases by a wide variety of rock, electronic, and experimental artists, including Valentin Stip, DJ Slugo, and an archival live album by Lydia Lunch's early band Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. In 2015, Jaar released Pomegranates, a largely ambient album intended as a soundtrack to the 1969 experimental film The Color of Pomegranates. During the same year, he also composed the score to the French crime drama Dheepan, which won the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Jaar also released a series of singles titled Nymphs. While most of them were issued on Other People, the fourth volume, a single track called "Fight," was released by the Belgian label R&S. In 2016, Jaar released his second proper solo album, Sirens. 2012-2017, a surprise release of dancefloor-oriented material recorded under Jaar's pseudonym A.A.L. (Against All Logic), appeared in 2018. R&S reissued the Nymphs series as a triple-LP in early 2019. ~ Andy Kellman & Paul Simpson, Rovi