Nicolas Jaar has maintained a heavy sense of eccentricity and innovation in his work throughout his tenure as a composer. Though he spent a brief jaunt experimenting in the dance music realm around a decade ago, he’s since internalized the genre’s ubiquity and coherently shifted away from creating it altogether.
Jaar’s severely personal music strolls down intellectual promenades that emulate grandiose imagery while also stimulating contemplation over the deeper meaning of each composition. He’s embraced a style that few contemporaries could accomplish with such grace, and although his body of work is unmistakably inspired by masterminds before him like Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, John Cage, and even Nils Frahm, it nonetheless continues to bolster him to the vanguard of modern, experimental pioneers.
If Jaar’s politically entrenched Sirens shattered the mirrored ceiling of modern music’s algorithmic tropes, then a full-length return under his lesser-known Against All Logic pseudonym ought not to be an unexpected shift of sonic avenue. The project’s entire aural presence is luxuriant in samples, post-modern nods, and to some extent, packs a dance-oriented flavor. In fact, 2012-2017 is richer in club elements than anything else he’s released in recent years.
2012-2017 harkens back to the inventive attitude that drove Jaar’s early material. Though his debut studio album Space Is Only Noise is ridden with reservation, its post-punk attitude seeks out a pervasive experimentality of alien electro-pop on almost every corner. Sirens was an exceptional work of art, though not in the context of the dancefloor. 2012-2017 is the follow up that fans of Space Is Only Noise were quietly anticipating. Both 2012-2017 and Space Is Only Noise are substantial shifts from the aesthete heartbeat of Sirens.
True to its title, 2012-2017 is an expansive compilation wherein both its previously released tracks and new numbers are conceptually tied to its five-year timeline.
Perhaps viewing the release as an opportunity to pay his respects to the eras of song which birthed DJs, too, Jaar draws from elements of soul, funk, house, Motown, and techno on the release. He’s sampled the storied J.Dilla on the track “I Never Dream” and the illustrious Kanye West‘s Yeezus-era “I Am A God” on “Such A Bad Way.”
As the album carries on, its samples are juxtaposed beside the same low-key nature of the album’s release — and seem to be intentionally-placed elements of intrigue and enigma. It’s worth noting that 2012-2017’s release was back on February 17, though Jaar never advertised the record. Even now, Other People’s website contains zero information about the release, but just as the superstars he’s attributed have been embedded into the collective consciousness of pop culture, Jaar seems to use A.A.L to critique the nature of labels, and asks whether there’s truly any inherent meaning in the task. Would the listener appreciate Jaar’s samples any less if they were to find out he had not been behind the release, he seems to question.
2012-2017 could have gone entirely unnoticed, and as the streaming era’s inevitable domination marches on, it’s likely that Jaar’s continual questioning of the industry’s absurdity will become more and more prevalent, though in his own new ways.
Whether the listener is with him or against him, Jaar has already taken his stand. A.A.L. is not the only avenue he’s using for his releases. Fans can also hear off-kilter Jaar productions under Iva Gocheva, alongside Dave Harrington in Darkside, and who truly knows where else….though is that not the entire point, after all?