Published Oct 06, 2016In the five years since Nicolas Jaar dropped his widely acclaimed and influential breakout Space Is Only Noise, the Chilean producer has released collaborative records, scored films and released a series of incredible 12-inches, Nymphs I through IV. And yet, for all of the sonic breadth of that material, none of it quite prepares listeners for Sirens.
There's almost a full minute of near-silence before glass shatters and a piano cascade bursts like fireworks on opener "Killing Time." From there, the 11-minute epic (and easy candidate for song of the year) is devastating, Jaar's voice warbling that "We are just waiting for the old thoughts to die" while gorgeous piano wanders alongside him, seemingly pondering his words.
The sadness is made even more poignant juxtaposed with Jaar's anger on propulsive, almost aggressive followup "The Governor" and later track "Three Sides of Nazareth." On the former, Jaar trades in the sparse, wide-open sound of Space for bass-heavy cacophony, while the latter embraces a driving Krautrock sound. Sirens is held together by Jaar's heartfelt, political lyrics, giving him free reign to explore vast sonic territory. Swaying highlight "No" features a subtle Cumbia rhythm before it slows to an ambient, elegant breakdown halfway through, while the aforementioned "The Governor" is punctuated by stuttering jazz piano.
Employing the production deftness that made Space sparkle, Jaar injects each of Sirens' six tracks with equal parts swagger and poignancy, so while reverb-y doo-wop could sound cheesy in the wrong hands, on Jaar's "History Lesson" — whose lyrics acknowledge how, globally, "We fucked up" — it makes for an entrancing album closer, leaving the listener in the complicated middle ground between implied nostalgia and an explicit critique of it. (Other People)