Nico Jaar tunes up

Music Dept.
By MAGGIE LANGE  |  April 13, 2011


The sound of Nico Jaar's first full-length album, Space Is Only Noise, must have been inspired by his East Side studio. Wires and cords, speakers and screens litter the room, but the space feels cozy. And it is this combination of the electronic with the comfortable that oozes out of Nico's music.

Jaar is in his junior year at Brown University, but critics have already acknowledged his precocious originality. The general consensus is that his music is simultaneously weird and likeable. Pitchfork, which ordained his newest album with an enviable 8.4 out of 10, said the disc is "leftfield electro-pop, far-flung and without reserve, but it is also patient, quiet, and small."

Jaar's album is a solo venture, but he joined up with three other musicians a few months ago for live shows. The additions — Will Epstein, Dave Harrington, and Ian Sims — had been playing in a band together. As a group, the foursome has played two shows, one at Brown and one in New York, and are sitting down for their seventh rehearsal when I visit.

This is the last opportunity they will have to practice before they go on a tour that begins in Miami, and then crosses the ocean to London's Fabric, Rex in Paris, and a concert hall in Milan — back in time for class on Monday.

But Jaar's burgeoning fame has a way of interrupting.

A couple of minutes into the first song, he slaps the table that holds his laptop. He's forgotten he has an interview scheduled, right now, with London's Sunday Telegraph.

"And it's on Twitter," he says, looking a little pained.

"It's a twinterview," Sims calls out, as he adjusts the drum set.

For Jaar, describing the appeal of his own music isn't something easily done in 140 characters. He tells me he wants to make music that has "a landscape that goes up and down and around . . . a space, where you can look around at this tiny little thing or at something bigger, music that doesn't force you to concentrate on anything."

The rest of the guys start chatting, walk outside for a cigarette break, come back, and begin to play almost absentmindedly as Nico tweets. Soon they are grinning and laughing as they play, and leaning over their instruments. It's a song from their old band.

Nico turns around. Like a left-out kid, he wants to join in. "Guys, I think I can tweet and play at the same time," he says.

When the band finally gets started, two hours after sitting down, they play for 20 uninterrupted minutes, turning three songs into a single, complete stream that starts with "Too Many Kids In the Dust," a bare bones piece that could be the soundtrack to getting lost in the desert, and ends with the circuitous, echoing, and relaxed rhythm of "Love You Gotta Lose Again."

"There's the hook, there it is," says Jaar. He lights a cigarette, yelps a "woo," claps. The mismatched lampshades shake a little, the exposed brick reverberates.

The band is ready for its transatlantic sojourn.

Another hand slapped on the table: "Ooh, I forgot to tweet," Jaar says.

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  Topics: This Just In , Music, London, Brown University,  More more >
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 See all articles by: MAGGIE LANGE