October 28, 2013

Remix of the Week: Nicolas Jaar

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The New York Times Magazine has this regularly occurring section “The Meh List,” chronicling things that are “Not hot. Not not. Just meh.”  This easily overlooked box is hilarious, proclaiming subjects as varied as “Pre-war charm” and “amazeballs” as meh. If I had to make a “Meh List” for musicians, you can bet all your money that Cat Power would be #1. She’s one of the rare artists who I have no opinion about. To be honest, I probably have not spent enough time listening to her or reading interviews to formulate a solid opinion, but she also fails to motivate me to listen to her albums and read about her.  I understand that she has an incredibly loyal fan base, I know she’s a critically acclaimed artist and I do not deny her talent, but for some reason I just can’t get into her music. I gave her album Sun an honest listen last year, and I would give it a very meh 5/10. I then saw her at the State last year, in hopes that a live performance would sway me one way or another. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. As bizarre as that concert was (read a review here), I left feeling more ambivalent and confused than ever.

So if I clearly don’t love Cat Power, why am I featuring one of her songs as this week’s remix?  Well, the answer to that can be summed up in two words: Nicolas Jaar. Jaar is a prodigy and/or a prophet, and one of my favorite artists. In my room I have two prominent pictures of people: one of Nicolas Jaar, and another of Fabio Cannavaro, the captain of the 2006 Italian soccer team (#forzaazzurri). Basically, I put Jaar on the same pedestal as World Cup champions.

Though only 23 years old, he has:

This is an abbreviated list, not counting his many remixes and collaborations, legendary MoMA PS1 show and critically acclaimed mixes.

If you haven’t heard it yet, I highly recommend listening to Darkside’s Psychic. As of now, it’s my favorite album of the year despite steep competition from James Blake, Disclosure and Lorde. It has basically become the soundtrack of my daily life; Psychic is powerful, inventive and impeccably produced, but also works (for me at least) as study music. After listening to Psychic incessantly for about two weeks, I decided to revisit some of Jaar’s earlier work. While I do thoroughly enjoy his remix of “Sleeping Ute” by Grizzly Bear and Shlohmo’s “Rained the Whole Time,” “Cherokee” is by far my favorite. Jaar thins out the original recording and adds his quintessential ambient touch. Though this remix is shorter than the original, Jaar focuses more on the spaces and slows the tempo, making it seem as though he lengthens the song. By removing most of the percussion and inserting a melancholic organ, this is a very typical Jaar remix. It’s absolutely beautiful, and while Cat Power may be on my “Meh List,” this remix is certainly not.