Nicolas Jaar, as Part of Music @ MOCA at Mondrian South Beach, December 7
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."
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.
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"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."
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