Album Review: Against All Logic: 2017 – 2019

The latest in a series of albums with the most satisfyingly unambiguous titles in music, 2017-2019 is the second LP under the Against All Logic moniker of New York producer Nicolas Jaar. The first, 2012-2017, was taken perhaps too seriously. Jaar, a purveyor of intricate and conceptual IDM, clarified that each song was produced in only 45 minutes and so its reception may have taken him by surprise. After all, he had just released a trilogy of meticulous records which covered ground as wide as soundtrack and autobiography and so his AAL collection – which he didn’t even advertise – was perhaps meant as a footnote for diehard fans. An enigmatic talent, Jaar is used to doing the surprising, and that is perhaps an explanation for the music we have here. With an awareness that the world is watching, Against All Logic now means something entirely different.

The first three songs here do work off a familiar AAL formula: buoyant house grooves flecked by Jaar’s textural accentuations, and they’re predictably immaculate. Opener ‘Fantasy’ announces itself with a beauteous distorted mandolin, and some hard whomps introduce a rework of Beyonce’s ‘Baby Boy’. The brazenness of this sample is typical of the fun Jaar has wearing the clothes of AAL, but the pleasing opening tracks don’t come close to forecasting the hair-lashing looseness to come. Those expecting more of the disco flips and easy-going grooves of 2012-2017 are about to be thrown completely asunder.

It’s hard to recall the last time an album underlined its own tonal shift harder than Jaar chopping Lydia Lunch venomously proclaiming “because if you can’t beat ’em, kill ’em/If you can’t kill ’em, fuck ’em” on fourth track, ‘If You Can’t Do It Good, Do It Hard’. From here on out, it’s lift off. If these songs are to be taken chronologically, then at some point between 2017 and 2019 Nicolas stopping giving a fuck. ‘Alarm’ kills the previous cut with a stone-cold electro-synth which sounds like Boys Noize playing with their decks on fire. ’Deeeeeeefers’ is a further escalation, a track which takes the concept of an EDM build and stretches it across five minutes, until it’s just a cacophony of sirens, swirling noise and deep, Knife-indebted vamps. It’s grin inducing stuff, and in three songs Jaar turns Against All Logic from a place where he relaxes to the place where he rages.

‘Faith’ and ‘Penny’ follow; a pair of techno cuts which are meticulously composed, but retain the nervous vigor of the album’s tonal shift: boasting feet-shuffling kick patterns and deriving their energy from developed and emotive melodies. During ‘Faith’ the rear channel is filled with a lashing siren-like synth, upon which an elastic groove intensifies. ‘Penny’ is the most complete techno cut here, with a 145 BPM snare pattern matched by muddy bass hits and pirouetting embellishments. Jaar also finds time for his contemplative mode in ‘Faith’s final minutes and on closer ‘You (Forever)’, where airy atmospherics leave room for haunting glimpses of Andean vocals and drunken, clipped builds to nowhere.

This chaos was sign-posted by Jaar’s punk-rock interest on Sirens, and certainly last week’s thunderous double A-side Illusions Of Shameless Abundance/Alucinao, but we’ve rarely heard his music as energised or militaristic. Jaar is a thoughtful talent, but the joy of his AAL series is the rare opportunity to see a master cut loose. For the first half of the last decade this meant music that was at once Jaar’s most fun and most inconsequential, but on this record we get to see a careful musician do something far more thrilling: become unhinged.

Words by Liam Inscoe – Jones. 

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