Nicolas Jaar – Cenizas (4 stars)

Nicolas Jaar – Cenizas

Chilean-American composer's latest release is a dark and ambient record rich with originality

Nicolas Jaar has produced a considerable palette of work over the last decade. From the patient groove of 2011's breakthrough Space Is Only Noise to his psychedelic jazz duo Darkside. There's his revered 2012 Radio 1 Essential Mix and the dancefloor funk of recent pseudonym Against All Logic.

The Chilean-American composer's work is united by a sense for stitching together ambient and beat driven sounds like they were born for one another. Cenizas is the first release under Jaar's name since 2016's Sirens, and skews to his darker ambient side.

It opens with overlapping soundscapes and ominously welcoming tones on 'Vanish' and 'Menysid', with glitches which help build an atmospheric tease, a signature of Jaar's. Title track 'Cenizas' is submerged in echoing vocal loops and unnerving scrapes, with an undying slow tempo groove at its core. 'Agosto' and 'Gocce' bring in traditional instruments, with an underlying ambience which produces Lynchian vibes.

Lead single 'Sunder' evokes religious imagery amidst a background of tentatively sinister, but seductive, instrumentals. Jaar is immersed in reflection, probing enigmatically but profoundly. 'Is there blood in the court? Is there blood on the ceiling? Do we need to be still? Do we need your dominion?' is eerie and threatening, but delivered in an enveloping way that promises worthy meaning on the other side.

A period of unwinding follows, whether it's the multitudes of 'Hello, Chain' or the serene piano loops on 'Garden', signing off on the relatively melodic 'Faith Made of Silk'.

Jaar has said little about Cenizas, and its enigma is crucial to its allure. It bleeds with spirituality, with a sensibility second nature to few musicians. Navigating steadily through mysterious and unusual waters, it never falls prey to genre traps. It gives the sense of a composer rich with originality and confidently relaxed in his expression of it.

Out now on Other People.

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