Experimental dance music visionary Nicolas Jaar has gone from underground figure to festival favorite in a few short years thanks to his deliciously dark brand of deep house and seductive live sets. Jaar has carved out a unique sound for himself, layering mesmerizing vocals and live guitar and sax atop undulating synths, crisp beats, and Latin percussion. His tracks have a distinctively shadowy vibe, and he plays up the darkness at his live shows, performing favorites like “Mi Mujer” and “Wouh” while shrouded in fog or silhouetted in blue and purple lights. Occasionally he’s joined on stage by additional musicians who provide guitar and sax, but usually he performs solo and recreates his tracks on the fly by triggering sounds from his Mac laptop and manipulating them in real-time using a variety of outboard hardware. Jaar’s stellar live sets are equally compelling whether he’s performing at a small club or a festival main stage, and he always leaves ticket buyers intoxicated with his dance-worthy and darkly beautiful sounds.
Nicolas Jaar was born in New York City to Chilean parents. He dabbled in experimental music during his teens, and in 2007 he fell in with members of the city’s underground dance scene who suggested he put a 4-on-the-floor kick drum beat under his ambient compositions. The idea planted the seed for what would become his signature sound, which he honed over the next four years while producing hip hop-influenced house music. He garnered attention in 2010 with the songs “Mi Mujer” and “El Bandido”, which featured him singing in Spanish, and the buzz came to a head the following year with his full-length debut Space Is Only Noise. The album was a critical smash, earning “Best New Music” from Pitchfork and topping year-end lists from major music publications like Resident Advisor and Mixmag. After releasing an Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1 in 2012 (it was later voted the best Essential Mix of the year by listeners), Jaar launched his project Darkside, a creative endeavor with instrumentalist Dave Harrington. The pair’s 2013 debut album Psychic was a huge critical and commercial success, earning rave reviews, cracking the Top 10 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers and Electronic Albums charts, and leading to appearances at major festivals around the world. Darkside went on hiatus in 2014, but Jaar continues to be a dance music darling thanks to a steady string of experimental EPs and his soundtrack work, which includes the score for the award-winning 2015 French film Dheepan.