Jaar was born in New York on January 10, 1990, to Alfredo Jaar and Evelyne Maynard and moved to his father’s native Chile when he was two. He and his family lived there for six years before moving back to New York, where he attended the Lycée Français de New York. He studied comparative literature at Brown University, Rhode Island. Jaar met Soul Keita and Nikita Quasim on a school trip through the Sonora desert in Mexico. The three bonded over music and began swapping beats and projects online. In 2009, Jaar started Clown & Sunset as a way to legitimize their music. In August 2013, Jaar wound up Clown & Sunset in favour of a new subscription-based imprint called Other People.Jaar's music is ruminative and emotional (he calls it "blue-wave"), drawing inspiration from fellow Chilean Ricardo Villalobos and minimal techno. Most of Jaar's compositions reside at 100 BPM or lower, far lower than the techno/house standards of 120–130 BPM. "I'm going to keep taking the beats even slower," he said in an interview with Resident Advisor. "More unintentional things happen between the beats." He released his debut album, Space Is Only Noise
, in January 2011 to critical acclaim, receiving a score of 8.4 and the title of Best New Music from Pitchfork and four stars from the Guardian
. It was ranked the number 1 album of the year by Resident Advisor, Mixmag, and Crack Mag, number 2 by DJ Mag, and number 20 by Pitchfork. His track "Don't Break My Love" also received the Best New Track award from Pitchfork in late 2011. Jaar toured the album with a full band, combining sounds from his laptop with a guitarist, drummer, and saxophonist. Resident Advisor gave them the number 1 spot in their Top Live Act 2012 list.On May 18, 2012 Nicolas Jaar made his BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix
debut, which was voted Radio 1's Essential Mix Of The Year 2012.The debut album from Darkside, Jaar's project with longtime collaborator Dave Harrington, was released on October 4, 2013.In March 2014, Jaar collaborated with Sasha Spielberg under the Just Friends moniker and released the single entitled "Don't Tell Me."