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If Nicolas Jaar has been pigeonholed as a dance music producer, it's primarily because his auspicious first releases were put out by NYC deep-house label Wolf + Lamb. Admittedly, they were records with a four-to-the-floor beat.
But Jaar's ever-evolving sound has since eluded categorization, instead offering a kaleidoscopic tapestry of world music influences woven together through avant-garde sound design. The formulaic aspects of EDM production are clearly gone from his creative process.
"For a long time, I made songs in a very intuitive way," Jaar says. "If a track needed some vocals, then I would just sing whatever came to me and not think twice. Now I still make music intuitively but prefer to then add and subtract according to what I actually want to impart."
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Another thing that sets Jaar apart from most other EDM artists: his live show. Though he might be playing to sold-out crowds at the world's top dance clubs, his music is equally at home in art galleries and museums. Take this year's much-lauded multimedia performance at NYC's MoMA PS1. And there's also the matter of Jaar's live band — multi-instrumentalists Dave Harrington, Will Epstein, and Ian Sims — helping to explore more dynamic interpretations of his studio recordings.
"Most of it is improvised, but we obviously play around with the songs I've written," Jaar explains. "What's exciting about improvising is that if I drop the piano line from 'Encore' in the middle of 'Variations,' Will and Dave feel as surprised as the crowd, in a way."
Of course, what better time and place for Miami to experience Nicolas Jaar's artsy live act than Basel week. And thanks to a joint effort by the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami and local promoter Young Hearts, we can look forward to avant-garde EDM when Jaar performs this Friday at the Mondrian in South Beach.
What exactly should revelers expect? "I will know as soon as I land. If the Mondrian looks like a pink and yellow rave lounge, I might just play 'Mi Mujer' for three hours," Jaar jokes. "But honestly, it always depends on the context."