SIRENS by Nicolas Jaar


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Genre: Electronic, Ambient

Favorite Tracks: “Killing Time,” “No”

With the emergence of new technologies, our definition of “music” is constantly evolving. On SIRENS, Nicolas Jaar presents us with something emotionally provocative and obscure. It’s rhythmic, but seems to shoot for a part of our brain much deeper than we, as listeners, are typically used to. The Chilean DJ plays the part of psychonaut just as much as artist on SIRENS, crafting something visceral and intense in the process. The way I see it, SIRENS is a collection of ideas arranged into sounds and frequencies that are sometimes pleasant, but always intriguing.


Music that ventures into obscurity is never easy to describe. SIRENS establishes itself as something obscure from the get go, as the opening track “Killing Time” runs over 11 minutes long. The noise is atmospheric yet beautiful. A piano is perhaps the only physically recognizable instrument heard in that entire span of time, apart from reverberating percussion that seems to originate from somewhere inside a chasm. Although the mysticism and curiosity is certainly there, the execution is spotty. I had a hard time finding a significant distinction between minute four and minute ten.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the sounds of the album as they unfolded, the tracks sometimes seem to have bleak spots in which nothing particularly interesting for the ears happens. Perhaps this was the artist’s intention, to create something deep and hollow, but it doesn’t stay consistently fresh, and that takes a toll on the listener. SIRENS serves as great background music, but I can’t see it standing on it’s own as a powerful, emotionally evocative piece of artwork.


The highlights of the album come from the artist’s clever and quite beautiful use of samples, such as on “Leaves,” where a plucked instrument brings you into a surreal atmosphere of time-ramped wind sounds and synthesized echoes. Certainly, there are beautiful moments on SIRENS, but not quite enough to justify the otherwise uninspired strangeness around them that seems to detract from the experience rather than add to it.

The album is very dream-like, but unlike an actual dream, it doesn’t quite invoke a strong emotional response. I’m left feeling a bit dissatisfied after the unnerving buildups within songs that never seem to go anywhere. Each track is roughly connected by lo-fi Spanish dialogue or some other transitional element, but once again, they feel a bit uninspired. Despite this, I cannot help but respect and appreciate how I am left feeling anxious and unnerved by the end. I feel moved in ways that music typically does not move me. However, the high points are not enough to justify the lengthiness of the songs, as the entire album feels like a buildup to something that either never comes, or takes too long to get there.


As someone who deeply values experimentation, I feel as if SIRENS doesn’t quite do anything that experimental. It feels strange and unique, sure, but not thoroughly original. SIREN’s is mysterious, and heady, like an obscure foreign film. But it doesn’t quite hit the mark the way a good album should. Everyone will have a different experience listening to something so unique, but due to long, dull moments and sub-par originality, I cannot bring myself to recommend it on a wide level.

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Parker Hutcheson is a writer and aspiring director from Fresno. Growing up, Parker had a pet wolf whom he had to set free into the wild, where he quickly found a pack to run with. He loved the wolf very much, and hopes you enjoy his articles.

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