2017-2019 is the second album by Nicholas Jaar under the moniker Against All Logic. Jaar, under his own name, is renowned for his experimental electronic music production. A.A.L. was originally his side project, used for releasing the tracks he would doctor up for live DJ sets. In 2014, he released two sets of singles, You Are the One & Issue #9, through his label Other People. When A.A.L. really made waves, however, it was in 2018 with the release of 2012-2017, an album made up of tracks originally produced for live sets. The album fused Jaar’s avant-garde penchant with danceable house, which made for unsettling but still floor-ready beats.
2017-2019 is darker and more introspective, but retains a beat-driven edge that makes you want to move, but unsure of how. The stylistic elements of this record range widely: the 4-4 of house, techno melodies, tribal rhythms, sirens, and industrial sounds are all cut up and assembled with irreverent tact.
This record has three identifiable movements. The nine songs fit into groups of three, by song: 1-3, 4-6, 7-9. Each of them share a unifying sentiment. I hope that I may be permitted here to divide the album as such, as the sonic differences between the movements are stark enough that I feel confident in doing so. Furthermore, the transitions within each movement are nearly seamless, while from one to the next it can be jarring.
The first movement is the initiation of a Fantasy, as dictated by the first song’s title. It features a tortured, sparse production and ample space between the melodic elements, the samples, and the drums. It is plagued with a feeling of — Should I? Or shouldn’t I? — although desire wins out and the pursuit is conducted.
The song titles sum up the story: “Fantasy”, “If Loving You Is Wrong”, “With an Addict”. It is a struggle against oneself: is the fantasy worth it? This inner conflict gives way to a loss of control. These songs vacillate within the sublime, there are moments of clarity and chaos. “If Loving You Is Wrong” sways in 4-4 while the vocal sample twitches and melodic keys drip. In “With an Addict”, complex, tribal drums rap for the first minute before the music comes in when the drums and production tango. The vocal sample states the inner conflict succinctly: “and you don’t stop. Stop… and you don’t stop”. It echoes like the conscious thoughts of an addict unable to stop.
The second movement reveals the Aftermath. “If You Can’t Do It Good Do It Hard” begins the turmoil. A siren howls and stutters, commanding the track. It is a total loss of control. The lyric rages in defiance “If you can’t beat ‘em, kill ‘em. If you can’t kill ‘em, fuck ‘em.” This second movement plays out the consequences of the hedonic fantasy.
“Alarm” follows a dissonant melody with battered industrial machinery. We are lost in a factory catastrophe, which transitions immediately into “Deeeeeeefers” which takes off with a crushing distorted bass. Vague melodies from metallic piano offer no respite from the consuming bass and sudden screeches.
The third movement shows Resolve. A nervous calm commences on “Faith”. It is not blind, but questioning. A bass jabs and a bell rings without space, while low pads and an eerie choral sample fill it out. It wanes to a definitive melody, which brings on the hesitant tranquility of the rest of the album. Where “Penny” is warm, fast, and full, “You (forever)” flows slowly like cold honey. The would-be-sweet synths are icy, unintelligible voices reverberate, in other words, the track is a fitting denouement to an album that is in conflict with itself and the world.