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Album Review: Nicolas Jaar - Cenizas

Nicolas Jaar provides a path out of the darkness on this new album 'Cenizas.'
Nicolas Jaar press photo

Nicolas Jaar press photo

Over the latter half of 2010’s there emerged a group of producers who managed to make interesting, thoughtful, melodic and at times experimental electronic music, while also gaining quite a large fan base. Artists like Four Tet, Floating Points and Nicolas Jaar never made music for the mainstream, but somehow they were thrust into a greater music conscious larger than what they seemed to intend. It is the best of both worlds – respect from the larger music community and the money that comes with people buying / streaming your music and sold out shows. Four Tet released his album Sixteen Oceans earlier this month and now Nicolas Jaar has his new album Cenizas out today to bring a great month of music to a close.

The Chilean-American producer has been quite busy of late. His Against All Logic alias put out two albums and an EP in the past two and a half years, the most recent 2017-2019 coming in February. Now we have another Nicolas Jaar album to process – his first since 2016’s Sirens.

In times like these, the world needs a Nicolas Jaar. His ability to morph sounds into something that is both calming and thought provoking is remarkable. It bridges esoteric melodies and experimental productions in a way that isn’t obnoxious or devoted to the chin-scratchers, but can be understood by most.

The album opens with the pensive and soft “Vanish” that would feel at peace being played in a large, gothic cathedral. The album trajectory bends a little with crinkling sound that become static over grating percussion and whirling pads on “Menysid.” His gentle heavily reverbed vocals on the title track deliver the same sort of wrought emotion on the opener. The album is also quite experimental at times like the quirky “Agosto” and the following track “Gocce,” which leans into the neo-classical elements of the album.

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While this album feels desolate and slightly depressing, there are moments of levity and brightness. “Hello Chain” one of the most uplifting of the bunch. Soft hypnotic piano arrangement “Garden” bring us to a place in a sunny and unseen garden (stay inside now though) before it lifts even more on the buoyant “Xerox" and eventually finishes at its frenetic best on “Faith Made Of Silk.”

The album was made, ironically, during a period of quarantine for Jaar. He was lost in the darkness found in Against All Logic and wanted to find a way out through this album. 

"Hopefully Cenizas only shows darkness so as to show a path out of it. I want this music to heal and help in thinking through difficult questions about one’s self, and one’s relationship to the state of things," he says in a post yesterday. "We are living in a time of complete transformation, a metamorphosis— and the transformations are happening within as well. There is potential for great healing and great destruction."

Nicolas Jaar finds a way to shape his sounds into something that is fascinating, forlorn and feverish. Cenizas means ashes in Spanish, an examination of humans leaving the natural world around them in ashes in the name of prosperity. Nicolas Jaar captures the anxious mood of the moment, even if it wasn't intentional, and puts together an album that will apply well beyond to the next few months as we go back to destroying the environment. Pick up a copy of the album here.

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