The past few years have seen an explosion of techno's sonic boundaries, with more leftfield and jazz influences creeping into a world more known for its sweaty four-to-the-floor workouts. Perhaps no other group has been more responsible for this sea change than dOP, the Parisian trio that has brought organic textures, live instrumentation, and a playful irreverence to the post-minimal landscape. Joining the group on the Circus Company label for his first solo full-length, Nicolas Jaar appears to be following in their sonic footsteps.
Though the 21-year-old wünderkind has previously produced genuine tech-house tracks, most notably on Brooklyn's Wolf + Lamb imprint, this album is more of an exercise in atmospherics than surefire club hits. Sure, "Too Many Kids in the Dust" has a nice dub-techno feel, and "Balance Her in Between Your Eyes" could fit in with LA's nascent beat scene, but much of Space Is Only Noise betrays an appreciation of sonics beyond the dancefloor. The title track could almost fit onto a Legendary Pink Dots record, and "Keep Me There" has echoes of African jazz and pop music. Even Ennio Morricone and Angelo Badalamenti are referenced on pieces like "Variations" and "Almost Fell," what with the former's twanged guitar and the latter's disembodied female vocals riding above cool, watery synths.
There is only one misstep on this otherwise perfect record, and that is "I Got a Woman." Yes, Jaar is young, so mistakes are excusable, but sampling the vocal line from Ray Charles' most famous song is a bit much. Otherwise, though, Space Is Only Noise might be one of the most ear-opening techno records in recent memory.