Album Review: Space Is Only Noise - Nicolas Jaar

Nicolas Jaar just made something indescribable. Space Is Only Noise isn't techno, but it feels a little bit like techno. In fact, it isn't really dance music at all yet it is routed in Jaar's earlier experimentation, but the songs themselves feel like they have got all twisted up inside his head. Imagine one of Ricardo Villalobos' most off the wall efforts, give it enough rope to hang itself and then watch it take it and simply run away.

This is music for listening to. Not dancing, working or talking against. BlackPlastic put this on in the office to the visible frustration of colleagues - the beauty is in the detail and the texture and in in anything but centre stage it just doesn't work.

But give it room and Space Is Only Noise can blow your mind. Jazz flourishes and four-four kicks and spaced out, warped vocals make this a strange varied listen. Space Is Only Noise is an appropriate title - just like on James Blake's recent debut this has bags of the stuff, and a lot of the time it is the space that defines the sound. In fact just about everything that James Blake just did for dub step Jaar does here for techno.

At it's best the tracks come together to make something brilliant, confusing and startling. 'I Got A Woman' feature one simple broken beat and various instruments seemingly falling apart whilst a looped soul vocal repeats the song's title. It doesn't sound like much - indeed it isn't - but it manages to capture a strange feeling, with the vocalist seemingly conveying disdain at his apparent emotional attachment.

'Balance Her In Between Your Eyes' snaps and crackles with jazz piano samples and snatches of soul to beautiful effect before transforming into 'Trace', which sounds like little more than a band sound check as an interlude. And that says a lot about this album - these aren't songs so much as pieces or movements. Each intriguing and beguiling in equal measure, but it comes together as a magnificent body of work reminiscent of some of Eno's mist experimental moments.

The title track is the album's real standout moment. Slinky, loose and paranoid, Jaar's vocals sound like the ravings of a man losing his way through his own mind. Uttering about his subject's past habits of checking the weather and the time. BlackPlastic has no idea what any of it is about (people's tendency to change no matter how much we may wish they wouldn't?) but it works. Gradually a strummed bass becomes the only dependable aspect of the song as everything else descents into glorious chaos before it all comes back to kick your arse with it's bouncing bass line.

Space Is Only Noise is an album of atmospherics and it pursues pure sound and feeling at the expense of all else. Frankly it's an astounding listen.

BP x

Space Is Only Noise is out now on Circus Company, available from on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].