Electronic music producer extraordinaire Nicolas Jaar’s new found voice under the pseudonym of Against All Logic birthed a truly incredible record back in 2018, the lively compilation-of-sorts 2012-2017. A quiet, near build-less release for the debuting moniker, it quickly did well with critics and increased the amount of eyes on the man at its centre (who was completely unlisted on the physical album itself).
An interesting project by a very interesting character, 2012-2017 wore its love of music on its sleeve, and in no way was that limited to the parameters of house. Jaar played around in the pools of funk and soul, stitching together the patchwork quilt of sonics that would come to define A.A.L as a project. I’m incredibly pleased to say that includes the moment we’ve arrived at too. Harnessing that same adoration, that same fire and ambition, is his latest release 2017-2019, boldly having a crack at producing the same result in only half the span of time used to create the aforementioned record. Let’s talk about it.
The usual blow by blow approach is a harder task than usual with this particular release, as occasionally tracks flow into one another without interruption. However, I’ll do my best to give you accurate descriptors on the songs as they are (and I see them), and let you experience the flow of things yourself if that takes your interest.
Kicking off with sterling opener ‘Fantasy’, we find a frankly disfigured Beyonce sample leading proceedings. Everything underneath this frenetic, chopped-and-changed melody is metallic, jagged, sharp to the touch… this is the ‘establishing shot’ of the album. A more familiar beast in the catalogue is second up. ‘If Loving You Is Wrong’ manages to pull off soul-infused and swaying, whilst still definitely taking place in this cold, steel environment. The soft vocal part is a nothing more than a mask over your eyes, as you’re walked into a landscape filled to bursting with harsh, kicking rhythms.
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A wave of tribal, panicked drums pepper the beginning of third instalment ‘With An Addict’, the first example of mild overlap in the aesthetics of the pieces. Morphing into something much more relaxed (for the time being), the centrepiece here is a hook-driven delight rewarding you for your attention. Be sure to catch your breath. A real standout for me is track four, ‘If You Can’t Do It Good, Do It Hard’. A rare, unbroken pace on this track points to a fiery crescendo and you’ll get it and then some. A volcanic Lydia Lunch sample commands the latter portion, practically yelling: “If you can’t beat ’em, kill ’em/If you can’t kill ’em, fuck ’em/If you can’t fuck ’em, kill ’em/If you can’t do it good, do it hard”.
‘Alarm’, at just under two minutes, is a maddening delve into chaos; cacophonous and distorted in every possible sense. This sense of impending doom won’t soon subside as we continue through ‘Deeeeeeefers’, contextually to the record, a ‘drop’ for the previous track. The bassline is low and murky, only slightly suppressing the twinges of industrial noise it’s wandered in with. Don’t mistake my saying this for the implication of comparative calm… this track is maybe the most ambitious here, whooshing and whirring and throwing all the paint in its palette up the fucking walls.
The swelling intro of ‘Faith’ serves as a small intermission, but its angelic vocal textures work along side the pinging percussion choices to ensure you don’t get too comfy just yet. Nic is keen to keep the element of surprise at hand, so red herrings and misdirection are essential parts of his particular brand of plunderphonics, if I may dare call this such a thing.
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‘Penny’ falls from orbit with that same suspicious harmoniousness, but works hard to establish itself a separate identity from its predecessor. Slightly dirtied but mostly uplifting synths proliferate the longer we go, and everything begins to tie together to create one of the most subtle moments on the record. Closer ‘You (forever)’ is as gloomy as it is glitchy, a song completely dissected with its innards still twitching. It plays like a moodboard of pieces in their own space, garbled and alone… not even trying to pretend they co-exist. It’s a logical conclusion for 2017-2019 to completely self destruct, so even though it’s not the anthemic finish I personally wanted… I get it.
With this sophomore effort, A.A.L has crafted a Pollock of influence and unconventional songwriting marksmanship that switches up on you as soon as you’re settled. A statement of well-placed, unwavering confidence and a certain joy for fans of high-production projects with a sense of reckless abandon towards the dogma of genre. The reasons for this mysterious spin-off project may still (may forever!) be unclear, but its ambitions could not be any more defined.