Published May 14, 2018In an interview ahead of last year's Weapons of Mass Destruction, Nur Jaber articulated the EP as an angsty reflection of the anxieties felt around international current events: "Politicians, governments, media, huge corporations — they are all one and they are all after the same thing: power and money, even if it means people's lives are at risk!" she said. "I wanted to [...] write this EP to show a side of the raving techno culture as a sign of release and awareness of what is really going on, not just in Beirut, but all over the world."
A heavy dose of pumping, hard-hitting techno, the EP was a deeply cathartic release — protest music to dance to with wild abandon, at least as long as you could keep up with the technical onslaught.
The nine tracks on If Only – A State of Peace offer more room to reflect. Shot through with IDM and ambient passages, Jaber's debut full-length doesn't attempt to throw the end-of-the-world ragers that defined Weapons of Mass Destruction and MONA before it, downshifting for a more introspective journey toward finding a centre in the chaos.
Opener "A State of Peace" sets the tone with a meditative drone fit to soundtrack midnight stargazing, intermittent blips dotting a course across the celestial synthscape. As more reveal themselves, glistening melodies take shape, echoing trails passing through others like the masterfully designed paths of satellites blinking ambiently through the night. It's a good entry into the hypnotic flow of "The Spirit Molecule," a foggier episode that drifts along before a rhythm track gives it all a sense of slow-spinning propulsion, Jaber floating wordless vocals over all to narcotic effect before a chirping psychedelic breakdown. The rave's still here; it just fades in and out of focus.
Tracks like "Mr. X," "Late at Night" and "A World Where Nothing Else Matters" build these more understated rhythms into more expressly social techno, but they're all injected with, and bookended by, more textural gossamer pieces. While "Mr. X" rides the suspense of a bubbling beat and a coiling string of synth arpeggios, the distant sound of a knocking kick over balmy synth swells evokes the action outside a banging party as the sun's coming up on "Late at Night," so by the time you reach "A World Where Nothing Else Matters," it's like you've finally found the party, and with it community and release.
It still doesn't hit with the same intensity that tracks like "Weapons of Mass Destruction" do, but it's just as indebted to the Dionysian abandon at its core, Jaber serving red-eyed lyrical toasts to freedom and love over a crushing kick while a resonant ping pulses like sonar — always searching, even upon arrival.
On If Only – A State of Peace, Nur Jaber doesn't simply offer a hypothetical design for a utopian sanctuary, she locates it on a map and imparts her listeners with the tools to help them reach it. And while it's conceivable these tracks won't receive the same enthusiasm from fans attracted to her earlier work, there's plenty here that could hang amongst them somewhere midset and, as a result, better situate them as the kind of conscious releases she intended them to be. (OSF)