A.A.L. (Against All Logic): 2012–2017
Last week, under his alias (or side project) A.A.L. (Against All Logic), Nicolas Jaar quietly released his new album “2012–2017,” a sleek house-driven and sample-influenced record of magnificent proportions. The album, as indicated by its title, is a compilation of old and new tracks that appeared in A.A.L.’s discography over the denoted five years. But this sense of an afterthought – that the album is a product of chance encounter rather than an intended outcome – is not the overlying impression one gets from listening to the album, as it feels distinctly cohesive.
Past releases have seen Jaar become growingly abstract in his approach to music with conceptual albums that didn’t quite live up to the cultural significance of his debut, 2011’s “Space Is Only Noise.” “Sirens,” from 2016, was an ambitious avant-garde record with a wide range of musical (and political) influences, while 2015’s “Pomegranates” was an alternate soundtrack to Sergei Parajanov’s 1969 avant-garde film “The Colour of Pomegranates.” “2012–2017,” however, finds Nico’s sound completely refurbished, with sleek percussion and synth-based arrangements that are proof of his zeal for club music, yet still are reminiscent of his musical past – this dichotomy is perhaps the hallmark of a production genius, coming again and again with thoughtful and emotive tracks. The album feels hauntingly experiential: its thematic maxim evokes images from your past five years as a fellow clubgoer, but these images are strictly non-inferential – they are more feelings than remembrances. Nicolas Jaar dives headfirst into your memory with this album, and mines for old emotions to resuscitate, if only for a heartbeat. Everyone remembers something different as they listen to this album – I, for one, recall images of an unnamed club somewhere in the midst of Belgium, people crammed up against each other as strobe lights flicker to enlighten the room.
“It’s out of happiness that I go down these different little tunnels,” said Nico to Pitchfork about his creative process, and the way in which any project of his habituates personal routes. “2012–2017” is arguably his most joyous record, tingling the strings of those very rare euphoric moments that can only happen at raves. Clubgoing is something of a universal experience; although it has deep cultural motivations, the rave scene may be found almost anywhere in the world – a welcoming, warm, safe space for anyone coming to experience emotion to its very limits. It’s a way to hack into your system, to secrete dopamine, endorphins and serotonin with every beat of the music. Going to clubs is indeed a certain kind of pilgrimage – it happens only at specific times, under certain circumstances and clothing, in pursuit of evoking something spiritual. “2012–2017” sculpts a deeply personal experience lived in the midst of perfect strangers. The album is about the perpetuity lived in the chained confines of five years.
Nicolas Jaar has achieved an ambition very few producers could understand – that of creating and perfecting instrumental music with political and spiritual motivations. Nico introduces your own ghost to you, a being that existed between 2012 and 2017, and the result is one of overwhelming significance.