Jackson Pollock comes to mind when listening to Telas, the newest release from experimental ambient and house artist Nicolas Jaar. The surreal and scattershot composition of conflicting synthetic and organic sounds is reminiscent of the chaotic and abstract nature of Pollock’s work. Jaar has orchestrated a masterful and complex ambient album. It’s versatile, maintaining a unique clash between newer industrial sounds that come across abrasive while contrasting those sounds with traditional instruments. That, in turn, gives Telas an ancient and etherial character. Despite being composed of only four tracks, the album is surprisingly long with each song taking its time as it guides you from sinister segments to serene spaces along the way.
The album begins with “Telahora,” which opens with clarinets bombarded with glitchy audio distortion while metallic banging (pots and pans?) set a muddled tempo. They are quelled by the eventual addition of strings to serve as a sort of respite, followed up with this rumbling sound in the background akin to a warped glass harp.
The song continues to introduce a wide array of instruments and synthetic sounds. To list them all in succession would take far too long, and would likely be guesswork, anyway. It’s safe to say that while each song is distinct from the others, all of the material on Telas is a collage of mismatching sounds that manage to work well with each other. This combination reminded me of Savages’ Jehhny Beth’s recent album, To Love Is to Live. The more industrial and disquieting moments, meanwhile, recall Akira Yamaoka’s work on the “Silent Hill” franchise.
While the listening experience is quite pleasant, it’s hard to recommend the album to a casual listener or to someone who is looking for something more pronounced. Nicolas Jaar’s Telas feels constructed in a way that’s more meant to serve as a smorgasbord rather than a more designer music experience. Yet it maintains a distinction that makes it feel easy to compartmentalize as experimental or ambient.
It does Jaar a disservice to really even categorize the album due to the abstract nature of it. I can see this music used for a variety of things, except for casual listening. This again brings up the analogy to Pollock, where the capricious quality of the art makes it understandable how it may or may not have a certain divisiveness among those who listen; akin to Pollock’s splatter art paintings that have remained the subject of debate for years.
One could compartmentalize Telas like some sort of DNA map: a little bit of this, that and the third. But it’s more of an experience to be had. You are led on an enigmatic expedition, with the only thing to guide you is your perception of the discord and subsequent harmonies that riddle this hour-long album. Whether you gain something along the excursion or not, the perceptions gathered from the act of participating will be more informative to the quality of the record than anything someone else could present to you.
Follow editor Tim Hoffman at Twitter.com/hipsterp0tamus.