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, these 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 cookie-cutter aspects of EDM production are clearly gone from his creative process.
"For a long time, I made songs in a very intuitive way," Jaar tells Crossfade. "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."
The live context in which Jaar started presenting his music is another thing that sets him apart from most of the EDM contingent. He might be playing to sold-out crowds at the world's top dance clubs, but his music is also right 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 his live band: multi-instrumentalists Dave Harrington, Will Epstein and Ian Sims, helping Jaar explore more dynamic hands-on interpretations of his studio recordings.
"Most of it is improvised, but we obviously play around the songs I've written," he 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."
Now what better time and place for Miami to experience Nicolas Jaar's artsy live act than Basel week. Thanks to a joint effort by MOCA and Young Hearts, we can look forward to just that when Jaar performs at the Mondrian Hotel in South Beach on December 7.
What can revelers expect? "I will know as soon as I land. If the Mondrian looks like a pink and yellow rave lounge, then I might just play 'Mi Mujer' for 3 hours," Jaar jokes. "But honestly, it always depends on the context."
Music @ MOCA. With Nicolas Jaar and Adams + Tabeau. Friday, December 7. Mondrian South Beach, 1100 West Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and tickets cost $25 to $40 via eventbrite.com. Call 305-514-1500 or visit mondrian-miami.com.
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