Where the fuck did this come from? I’ve heard absolutely nothing about this ‘Against All Logic’ moniker Nicolas Jaar is using up until about a week ago, when it seemed like every blog and their mums were hyping this new compilation album of house cuts from the past few years. What I wasn’t expecting, either, was the sheer quality of music on here. You can take pretty much any song on here and it could end up being one of the best dance tracks of the year come December.
Also, I wasn’t expecting how upbeat, fun, and happy this music was going to be. Jaar’s past work is notoriously dark, spacious, experimental, and sometimes downright scary. The opening few minutes of his last LP Sirens is a perfect example of how such interesting electronic music can unexpectedly frighten the crap out of you. But moods have shifted for this release – perhaps hence the different name this music is going under – so much so that it doesn’t feel right to compare these too much to Jaar’s work under his own name.
It’s usually the funk and soul samples that Jaar is using all throughout this album that are responsible for a lot of the pleasant auras presented on this album. The samples are delicately morphed and transformed into undeniable grooves and tone-setting techniques that allow additional sounds and instrumentation to feed their way elegantly into the listener’s mind and body alike.
Intro track ‘This Old House Is All I Have’ tricks you immediately: the dark and bulky drones sound like signature Jaar, however these get stronger and stronger, eventually flowing gracefully into the sublime sampling of Mike James Kirkland’s ‘Doin’ It Right’. The glitchy stabs of white noise and the continuation of the drones from the intro, contrasted with the smooth and sensual Kirkland beat sounds like hell on paper, but works so well in practice. And before this gets too old – Jaar knows exactly when an idea should end on this album – it is cut and broken by the frantic beat of ‘I Never Dream’, a song that’s basically perfect in every way. The well-composed build of tension paired with the heavenly vocal samples, before its drop into a main section led by a sexy bass melody is just one of many perfectly executed euphoria-inducing moments on the album.
Tracks ‘Some Kind of Game’ and ‘Cityfade’ both utilise a piano-led beat to develop and change dynamic throughout their respective runtimes. The former, with its high tempo energy and yelling vocal samples, drills a four-note piano stab into your head, constantly waving through different levels of intensity and sonic texture to give it a greater purpose throughout the sections of the track. And ‘Cityfade’ knows when to let this lead melody sit back, with the second half of the track making room for an instrumental exploration through intricate layers of percussion and atmospheric synthesizer tones.
There are some darker songs on here, though. ‘Flash in the Pan’ is built off an ever-changing forefront beat and a yawning synth lead that echoes feelings of yearning. And 10 minute epic closer ‘Rave On U’ allows its primary synth line to swell in intensity until it feels like it’s tearing open your eardrums – but it gives way and drops into a sympathetic outro, only piping up again in frustration a couple times more. Early album cut ‘Hopeless’ makes great use of chopped up sound effects to provide intrigue into what would otherwise be a mostly linear build-and-release. Its outro attacks you with a few more hits of crumbled percussion until the trivially high-pitched vocal sample of following track ‘Know You’ breaks in – just to ensure you that more good times are still yet to come.
The range of ideas on this album – which is technically a compilation, but I think it’s crafted too elegantly to be given that term – is quite unique for a house album. Jaar plays with rhythm and energy incredibly well between each track to produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The album guides you through different emotional states in a way that is inviting yet still challenging; you go into each track with an immediate feeling that, through careful musical craftsmanship, is either enhanced or changed in order to intrigue you, make you want to desperately listen on, and most importantly, make you want to dance.