Nicolas Jaar’s parabola has always been a crescendo of abstraction which travel at the same speed of history during the last foolish decade. Back in 2010, the world was so different. Barack Obama was at his first term when “Mi Mujer” became a club hit for the new Boiler Room generation and Jaar was just a 20 years old promising dance producer. Turns out later that “Mi Mujer” and “El Bandido” were just a little more than a joke, published just as an answer to the cultural appropriation of hispanic sounds by European producers. In fact, was Space Is Only Noise which made it clear that we were talking about one of the youngest talents of the decade. Year after year Jaar never stopped growing through several side projects, from the acclaimed blues jams of the Darkstar duo, alongside with multi instrumentalist Dave Harrington, to the collection Against All Logic, where all his pop/dance attitude is condensed and where great featuring come to life, as for the micro EP released on the 7th of February with Lydia Lunch and FKA Twigs.
Now it’s been ten years and fears that we neither imagined became reality at last. As a composer, every single note and every single word of the Chilean-American musician draws a certain path of elegance, minimalism, concept and a delicate balance between several languages. The process of abstraction readable over all his discography is the journey of an artist who always seems to find the perfect distance and perspective from which express the struggle of a burning world.
“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. 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.”
Cenizas is the Spanish for ashes. Four years after his last album Sirens, Cenizas is the result of a period of abstinence and self isolation from the system, that now seems so prophetic to make of this album the perfect one for this insane time of human history. Everything reminds of ethereal impalpability, from the very beginning with the supernal architecture of organ in the opening track, “Vanish“. Soft noises over murmuring voices on a floating arrangement coming in waves on the second track, “Menysid”, lead up to the title track, breath taking manifesto of the album, sung, again, in his native Spanish, as it was for “No” in Siren. A struggling rant on a deconstructed South American folk song, even more hopeless than four years ago: “En las cenizas vamos a armar. No saber nada es mejor. Ya no cabe nada, pero estamos juntos. Sin noticias del otro mundo.”
An alienated tribal world is what remains, and ignorance is bliss. The spiritual bass clarinet in “Agosto” is the first solid sound of the album, but instead of bringing all back to Earth, it forces a meditation over the previous words, and it ends on the peaceful rite of “Gocce“, accompanied by a piano glissando and a slow guitar arpeggio. “Mud” recalls Jaar’s delicate but severe attitude for blues, as a perfect way to deliver the strain of the broken men, over a long and out of time stoner jam.
The variety of musical styles combined to constitute this album own language is both so extremely wide and well mixed, to work itself as an answer of hope to the human incommunicability expressed in the lyrics. Peaks of pure contemporary music as “Vacìar” fit so good with the pop tendencies of “Sunder” and the sacred ambient of “Hello, Chain“, a touching and simple prayer to nature. Or, still, the free jazz of “Rubble“, where Jaar embarks in a bass clarinet improv, and the minimalistic piano of “Garden“. Every detail helps building this sophisticated but floating structure where Jaar’s prayer takes shape, as if one of the churches of Edoardo Tresoldi was built in a Indian reservation. In the end, the muttered mantra on ascending piano of “Xerox” concludes the rite. Finally, the light drums of “Faith Made of Silk” bring all back to Earth, making us aware of the trascendent metamorphosis that there has been over the entire album. The reference, as he says, is John Coltrane‘s record Crescent and its narrative effectiveness despite the absolute lack of rhetoric. “It doesn’t shout from the top of a mountain or wallow in its subjectivity. It doesn’t rely on anything but a humble faith in melody, rhythm and freedom.”
The extreme elegance of this album, alongside with its strong concept and poetry, sound like Coltrane’s lecture was perfectly absorbed, and make it a diamond upon the ashes, the purest form of expression of one of the greatest composers around.