Nicolas Jaar: Cenizas

Back on March 27th Chilean producer Nicolas Jaar released Cenizas, a full length experimental album that lands four years after his last LP Sirens. However, Jaar has been far from radio-silent; the prolific music artist plays and records under several monikers, yet assigned these thirteen hauntingly introspective tracks to his own birth name on his label Other People.

To say that Jaar works with intentionality describes his process mildly. As the son of famous Chilean visual artist and activist Alfredo Jaar, he has always been particularly cognizant of the political underbelly of music. His approach to music carefully navigates the parallels of the medium as a reflection of humanity, as much as it is a call to arms. Jaar immersed himself in self-isolation and sobriety a few years ago in order to purge himself of the negativity he felt entangled with. Rather than find salvation in solitude, he discovered that this darkness revealed itself all the more in the music he set out to create. The result is a chilling invitation into the depths of an emotional journey, and a tribute to covering vast technical ground. The fifty-three minute long composition evades pattern, escapes conformity, and offers an unabashed sonic exploration.

The expansive album sets the tone and groundwork in the first few tracks. It’s not until “Menysid” that we begin to hear a series of hypnotic and inorganic movements come to life. Jaar continues to use unrecognizable tones and sounds all throughout the upcoming tracks to shake off any frame of reference. They are at once alien and tactile, tantalizing our eardrums with scintillating prowess. In a similar manner, “Agosto” evolves like a fragmented orchestra; a clarinet melody weaves with bursts of chimes, distorted scale progressions, and other barely perceptible noises. “Gocce” is next, once again morphing into a medley of isolated bass notes, jangling piano keys, and heightened tension just in time for the meditative reprieve during “Mud”. Jaar’s hushed voice makes a faraway entrance alongside a discernible BPM, and his vocalizations appear once again in “Sunder” with increased regularity. Even later, in “Garden”, a delicate piano gently reverberates; a honey-sweet moment where Jaar sets an ethereal scene. Finally, the totality culminates in “Faith Made of Silk”. It’s as if Jaar finally captured all the disparate, clashing pieces and decided to frame them all together with discernible coherency. Perhaps this moment brings to question the very essence of it all; that familiarity and readability are subjective, and above all, an easily dismantled construct with the proper tools. Jaar kindles an unearthly sensorial discourse and experience that implores proper inquiry and attention, all the while maintaining a completely measured and deliberate handle on this liberated musical adventure.

Rating: 7.2/10

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