Since completing an album with Dave Harrington as Darkside, Nicolas Jaar is back on his solo efforts since his last studio full length Space Is Only Noise. Experimental electronic beats galore, Jaar’s multiple skills as an engineer, producer, and performer make everything he touches incredibly well executed, and with some pretty, and ludicrous individual packaging for the vinyl.
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Inventive is the Jaar. He’s made an esoteric dance opus, gone on to make what my friend once described as “dad house” in Darkside, released a gorgeous interpretive score called ‘Pomegranates’, which I can only really describe as an avant-garde slab… and now there’s this. ‘Sirens’ is a politically verbose, stage-directed opus that speaks bulky, unbearable truths. Through massive electronic strokes, through skronked out jazz, through industrial table tennis production and through… a doo-wop led, gospel-concluding finale? That’s how he makes this blaring record.
It’s such a pastiche, such a head-shaking chaos that different moments are likely going to strike down different listeners: the three-part opener is a sleuthing, gorgeously produced piece that focuses on industrial-strength beats that eventually get chipped away to their most base, like someone just flicking metal objects to see what happens. The broken melodies the song contains whirr and whine around Jaar’s wallpaper vocal: it sounds like he’s setting up a record, but if that’s the case, it’s only so he can tear it down. “Wildflowers” is a rubble-shifting panorama that again makes beats sound like recycled trash being salvaged from the dumping ground, as motifs bleed into the rushing “The Governor”, whose mix of restrained sample savvy, furious free jazz soloing and gulped vocal dashes creates the record’s most intense moment, both for its constraint and catharsis.
Jaar is an entrepreneur of the segue: this record pushes and pulls without your input, breathing little spaces between each different track, so that “Three Sides of Nazareth” and “History Lesson”, two aesthetically divergent pieces, can exist in service of the same purpose. That final, shocking track, in fact, seems to jump out of aesthetic logic, its sun-flecked, harmony-lovin’ good time pretending there’s light at the end of tunnel while refusing to fix any of the record’s political problems. It climaxes on a distorted vocal, on broken beats and a wooping siren, taking that major key and drenching it in the very same despair that puts ‘Sirens’ in the red. Sounds like a celebration, but it's a mere conclusion of the record's meltdown in nine parts.
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