Electronic Music Takes a Step Forward

February 6th, 2012

Nicolas Jaar – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 3, 2012

(Photo: Jared Levy)

LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy predicted the current state of electronic dance music. On the 2002 single “Losing My Edge,” he lamented, “I’m losing my edge to the kids whose footsteps I hear when they get on the decks.” Those kids pack venues. Those kids are young—very young. Nicolas Jaar, 22, is the latest wunderkind. His 2011 album, Space Is Only Noise, introduced audiences to a unique electronic approach: the introspection of Pink Floyd and the modern dubstep of James Blake.

But Jaar is also a phenom of the dance floor. Multiple remixes and a history of international club performances point to an interest in party-making as well as headphone music. And the former was the focus of his sold-out performance at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday. While Jaar opened with atmospheric sounds and a gloomy visualizer to match, he eventually increased the tempo to a danceable clip. The crowd’s appreciation confirmed his commitment to Friday-night music over Sunday-night ambience.

With a firm control of pace, Jaar incorporated an improvisational element, adding keyboard flourishes and his baritone vocals. The effect was greatest when he invited collaborators Will Epstein and Dave Harrington onstage to play saxophone and guitar, respectively. On the best-of-show “Space Is Only Noise If You Can See,” Epstein’s twangy guitar skittered in great juxtaposition to Jaar’s huge bass drops. The kids are better than all right. They are the best around. —Jared Levy