Nicolas Jaar caught us all by surprise when he released his new record, Pomegranates, for free on his Facebook page. Many of us have been waiting for it since the release of his 2011 debut album Space is Only Noise, which rocketed the American-Chilean producer to international success. The wait wasn’t so painful thanks to a couple of EPs and remixes here and there, and also thanks to his short-lived side project Darkside, alongside Dave Harrington, and their fantastic Psychic album, released two years ago.
Pomegranates was conceived as an alternative soundtrack to the 1969 Soviet film The Color Of Pomegranates, directed by Sergei Parajanov. Those who follow Jaar’s career closely surely know these tracks from back in February, when the producer uploaded the entire movie paired up with his music to his label’s Youtube channel. But for those of you who don’t, and are ready to hit play and have a party at home, you may want to hold off on those dancing shoes for a bit. The first few minutes of the album show us a harsher and darker take on Jaar’s already textural approach, one that continues for almost nine minutes, until sparkles of light in the shape of stunning processed piano strokes finally emerge. There is no discernible beat to be found until the fourth track, “Survival.” Well, sort of.
In short, Nicolas Jaar is at his most experimental yet. In a note he included in the album download folder, he explains that this soundtrack ended up being a collage of ambient works he made over two years, which started before he watched the movie and were later contextualized by it. And while the songs work incredibly well as a soundtrack to the film, they also stand on their own. Thanks to their cinematic and evocative qualities, you can pretty much close your eyes and imagine your own movie.
The use of vocals is scarce, and when they do appear, they come as field recordings, chopped and altered samples, or even as choirs, as found on tracks “Folie à Deux” and “Volver.” But don’t expect any conventionally pop vocals here. The piano pieces are dramatic and generate emotions from a wide range. From the nostalgia-inducing “Divorce,” to the straight-up sad closing number “Muse.” “Club Kapital” is probably something you can relate to his past works, with its techno tendencies, even though it’s disjointed and noisy.
Noise is the main element on Pomegranates, and it’s everywhere, in a bold, daring way. Some of the sections bring to mind the work of Black Dice, or even Arca, and the timbers and textures he managed to produce are challenging and formidable. There are references to many genres, like the IDM melodic line on “Tourists,” or “Shame,” a hip hop track Jaar produced for a rapper (which wound up rejected – what’s up with that?).
Pomegranates is Nicolas Jaar pushing the boundaries of what’s expected, or maybe just a guy having fun. But it’s definitely a piece of work that’s worth your time and all the attention you can put into it, because it’s a very rewarding experience. Also, peep his latest release on Spotify, which dropped today, below: