Last year proved to be an exciting one for Chilean-American artist Nicolas Jaar, having scored the soundtrack for Pablo Larraín's latest film, co-produced FKA twigs' album “Magdalene” and debuted a collaboration with Patrick Higgins. Yet even after all of these accomplishments, Jaar shows no point of stopping. Regarded as one of the best electronic artists of the last decade, Jaar broke into 2020 with his newest project “2017-2019” under the alternate moniker Against All Logic — or A.A.L. — Feb. 7. The album follows the 2018 release of his critically acclaimed “2012-2017,” which was a fun record filled with disco and house grooves that shocked the indie music world. “2017-2019” serves as a contemporary continuation and a more emphatic notion of electronic music’s capacities, particularly in the way it combines elements of old-school rave and trance with industrial techno and house.
Opening with “Fantasy,” a smooth remix of Beyoncé’s 2003 hit “Baby Boy,” the album consists of a series of climactic highs and sinister lows. Each track is flooded with invigorating elements of percussion, as well as supporting melodies ranging from distorted vocals to screeching sirens. Both “Fantasy” and later track “With an Addict” are instances of Jaar building contrast between wavering vocals and industrial beats which compress and decompress throughout each track. This seems to be the only consistency in this album, and one that is particularly notable in Jaar’s overall sound — glitchy distortion that lingers through every song.
As the title suggests, the songs on this album were recorded between 2017 and 2019, and each of them illustrate Jaar diving into new territory with his music. Once the album reaches the fourth track — “If You Can’t Do It Good, Do It Hard” featuring vocals by Lydia Lunch — the darker undertones of this album emerge, supported by percussion and synths that are harsh and exhilarating. Though Lunch’s lyrics are quite abrasive and somewhat hard to endure, it provides necessary cohesion for the album, notably in its smooth transition into the hard-hitting “Alarm.” These two tracks, in combination with the pulsating “Deeeeeeefers,” make for 12 minutes of industrial, militaristic techno that is hard-hitting and irresistible. “Deeeeeeefers” is a further escalation, a track which takes similar form to an EDM buildup and drop and stretches it across nearly six minutes, until all that is left is a distorted siren and percussion vamps. This section of the album is a delight, and in just three songs Jaar shifts the album from a place of relaxation to a chaotic rage. The last three tracks bring the conclusion of the album to a more melancholic, brooding place — with “You (forever)” ending this masterpiece of an album with the same vigorous energy with which it began.
Though it may not be as accessible as “2012-2017” was for new electronic listeners, Jaar’s latest album provides a different kind of experience — one that is fearlessly engaging. Nicolas Jaar has always been ambitious with his music, and “2017-2019” continues to prove his desire to push boundaries — this album being as intensely energetic as the New York City-based artist has ever been before. Whereas 2018’s “2012-2017” brought forth a funky serenade of house music with impressive production and sampling, Jaar’s latest album provides a more intensive and emotional listen than its predecessor. It is a journey of thrashing beats and unconventionally delivered melodies that mesh well together.
The ambience and sudden bursts of euphoria present in “2012-2017” are still very much alive in “2017-2019,” yet the mechanisms in which Jaar provides them have evolved — leaving behind sample-heavy house for harsh experimentation that succeeds. This album manages to invoke the creativity Jaar expressed on the previous releases under his own name, including the album “Sirens” and the radio network “333.” If this album is an indicator for what Jaar and other electronic music artists have in store for 2020, then there is a lot to be excited for. Evidently, Jaar now has two successful outlets to release provocative music — under his own name and as Against All Logic. Beautifully raw and industrial, “2017-2019” is bursting with harsh, experimental sound that is sincerely unapologetic.