Nicolás Jaar's 'Telas' Is a Cosmic Voyage Through an Ambient Universe

BY John AmenPublished Jul 14, 2020

Nicolás Jaar's Telas brings to mind nascent stars and galaxies, protean adaptations, and ever-expanding space. The album's complex design and diverse instrumentation are consistently sublime, the venture no less than a musical inquiry into the attributes of being itself. Throughout the opening piece, "Telahora," Jaar and company navigate significant leaps – pianissimo to fortissimo, the sparse to the textured, the buoyant to the weighty. Around the eleven-minute mark, the track condenses into ambient squeaks, bangs and tintinnabulations — a lively welter undergirded by electro-primitive rhythms.

"Telencimo" revels in whimsicality, moving through segments reminiscent of Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel, Harry Partch (for example, "Chorus of Shadows"), and Nine Inch NailsGhosts series. Melodically percussive sounds conjure gamelan sources, accents that suggest a kind of ontogenetical or biological ecstasy. "Telahumo" is the most darkly dramatic track on the project, combining spry classicism with noise sprawls, electronic splashes, and effected sounds that resemble cyclonic winds or lavatic waves, alternately sinister and life-affirming.

On the closing track, "Telallás," Jaar twists and manipulates sounds, often to the point of stridency; his attunement to paradox and compositional inclusivity, however, enables him to balance the discordant with the euphonic, micro-fragmentation with macro-unity.

Throughout his oeuvre, Jaar has displayed a noticeably anti-Romantic propensity, resisting sentimentality and subjective confessions. Instead, he has strived for a more impersonal study of natural processes and the intersection between nature and human history, between the evolution of the universe and the evolution of the mind. In this way, his music has much in common with Alex Gray's anatomical works, which focus on the human body but ultimately point toward ontological and metaphysical themes.

With Telas, Jaar has forged an ambient showpiece, using au courant methods, tones and arrangements to investigate energy, God and consciousness — that which can neither be created nor destroyed.
(Other People)

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