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April 03, 2020 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily

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Friday, April 3, 2020 — 5
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com



Just a few hours before the release of his

highly anticipated album Cezinas, Nicolas

Jaar took to his blog to provide listeners with

some background info. He wrote:

“The music comes from a desire to feel

everything -- a few years ago, I stopped


caffeine, eating animals, etc., and, for a period

of time, I also quarantined myself alone

somewhere on the other side of the world to

be able to work on music for months on end.

I didn’t want to keep feeding the system. Its

[the system’s] hunger, its past. I didn’t want

to work from ambition. Where I would work

to impress first, and love second. I wanted

presence first. Love first. I thought that if I

had this privilege and this luck, to be able to

talk to people through sound, then I better

work on myself & get rid of negative shards

within me. I didn’t want to unwittingly throw

[the shards] back into the world. Of course,

this didn’t happen...the shards kept piling up

and I had to accept the fact that the darkness

that I was trying to get away from would

always rear its head...Hopefully Cenizas

only shows darkness so as to show a path

out of it. I want this music to heal and help

in thinking through difficult questions about

one’s self, and one’s relationship to the state

of things. We are living in a time of complete

transformation, a metamorphosis— and the

transformations are happening within as

well. There is potential for great healing and

great destruction.


With love, Nico.”

Well, now certainly does seem like the

perfect time for him to release this album,

doesn’t it? In short, for Jaar (and hopefully for

his listeners), Cezinas is a way of processing

the darkness and realizing there is always a

way through, no matter how dark it seems.

The music, however opaque or murky, is a

way of understanding why we have darkness

and how it can transform us.

It’s clear Cezinas is unlike anything Jaar

has ever released. It’s unlike this year’s

danceable but ominous 2017-2019, it’s unlike

2018’s 2012-2017, it’s unlike 2016’s political,

vocal-focused Sirens, it’s unlike any of the

multitudinous EPs and it’s certainly unlike

his psychedelic, guitar-driven side project

Darkside, yet somehow, it’s distinctly Jaar.

Jaar is in total control on Cezinas, just like

he is on his other projects. It’s undeniable.

As always, he precisely executes his vision

exactly as he envisions it, never compromising

for the sake of accessibility. Like he said in his

blog post, the album is dark, but it’s only dark

as a means to show that the light is always

present, regardless of how far off it seems.

Opening track “Vanish” sets the tone of

Cezinas (Spanish for “ashes”) in concrete. It

begins with a droning, haunting instrumental

that sounds like the sonic representation of

darkness, but it eventually gives way to an

airy, desperate chorus of Jaar’s voice that

pleads, “Say you’re coming back / Say you’re

coming back / Say you’re coming back / Say

you’re coming back / Say you’re coming back.”

It ends just as the final repetition rings out

and then transitions to “Menysid,” an almost

industrial instrumental filled with stinging

whirrs and buzzes while a barely-there

synth line trudges along in the background,

like an ever-present, dim light. Title track

“Cenizas” continues to build on the droning

atmosphere, but Jaar establishes a sense of

fear by questioning the fate of humanity as

the world shrinks and crumbles, singing,

“In the ashes / We are going to assemble /

Knowing nothing / Is better.”

The fear and uncertainty continues to

manifest and eventually culminates with

“Mud,” Cezinas’s crushing centerpiece. The

darkness has reached its high point, made

clear as Jaar repeatedly warns that “There’s

something in the mud.” Once the vocals

totally fade, the track becomes brighter and

more vibrant, as if to say whatever it is in the

mud is completely obscured, but still there

regardless. All that needs to be done is to get

it out.

As Cezinas goes on, it slowly begins to fill

with light, though the darkness still prevails.

“Sunder” and “Hello, Chain” are the one-two

punch that was needed to drive the album

closer to its conclusion. “Sunder” features a

hypnotizing repetition of ascending keys as

Jaar begins to figure that his path through

the darkness depends on no one other than

himself. The same can be said of “Hello,

Chain,” with its heavenly layered chants,

patiently oscillating synthesizer and lyrics

that suggest the only way to the light is


The final three tracks are like the final

push out of the darkness. On “Garden,”

the light, though still far away, makes its

presence abundantly clear. “Xerox” is the

last violent drag out of the darkness toward

the gateway to the light, and “Faith Made

of Silk” is the act of moving through the

gateway and leaving the darkness behind.

“Faith Made of Silk” comes as a sudden burst

at the end of the album. It’s not a celebratory

song, though. Instead, it’s a cautionary one.

Jaar’s lyrics make it obvious that the act of

leaving the darkness is not about making sure

that it never returns. He sings, “Look around

not ahead / (You have nowhere to look) / A

peak is just the way towards / A descent,”

reminding listeners not to fall prey to any

darkness that may lurk ahead because after

every peak of light lies a descent filled with

uncertainty. That is to say, it’s useless to

look ahead. It’s more beneficial to recognize

everything they’ve overcome and remember

the people and events that eventually got

them to the light, just in case they find

themselves or anyone else trapped in the

darkness somewhere down the road.

Though not as danceable or accessible as

Jaar’s previous releases, Cezinas is without

a doubt his most powerful. Jaar manages

to make darkness palpable in every song,

yet somehow he is skilled enough to make

sure the light is always present, no matter

how obscured it may be. The album itself is

a representation of the transformation we

undergo as we deal with darkness in our lives.

Each individual song is either a representation

of the healing or the destruction that occurs

during a hellish journey to the light. It goes

without saying, Cezinas is the perfect album

for the world today as humanity navigates

through the seemingly ever-present darkness

toward the light, wherever it may be.

Nicolas Jaar recorded ‘Cezinas’ for times just like this

Daily Arts Writer

A24 films streaming on Amazon Prime: A breakdown


The Michigan Daily Arts Section

In the absence of new theatrical releases,

a few of us on the film beat decided to

break down our favorite A24 films that are

streaming on Prime Video.


“Venus, planet of love /

Was destroyed by global

warming / Did its people

want too much too? /

Did its people want too

much?” go the lyrics of

Mitski’s “Nobody.” Love

may not be the reason


issues on Earth, but in

Paul Schrader’s (“Dog Eat

Dog”) “First Reformed,”

love is a kind of answer to

them. Not romantic, or

even platonic love, but a

spiritual kind. And the

truth is, “First Reformed”

is a love story. The love a

particularly fraught priest of First Reformed

Church (Ethan Hawke, “Juliet, Naked”) has

for his drink, for a young environmentalist

couple who seeks his help, for the finite

bounty of the Earth. But that love comes

at a harrowing cost, and “First Reformed”

gracefully dives into all the vile, violent

darkness it promises.

— Anish Tamhaney, Daily Film Editor

“High Life” sneaks up on you. It opens

with Robert Pattinson (“The Lighthouse”)

and a baby, living together in a tiny

spacecraft. The baby is absolutely adorable,

and things would be perfect if not for the

endless, black silence pressing in against

the ship’s walls, which director Claire

Denis (“Let The Sunshine

In”) takes great care to

accentuate, and the look of

devastation in Pattinson’s

eyes. As the minutes tick

by, one learns how these

characters ended up light-

years away from Earth,

all alone. It’s psychotic,

horrific and deeply, gut-



movie to develop a sense

of tranquility only to rip it

away completely is the kind

of audacious filmmaking

that only comes from A24.

— Andrew Warrick, Daily

Arts Writer

My resolution for 2020 was to not have

a crush on unattainable people — and

then “Little Women” had the audacity to

come out at the end of December. It was a

perfect storm of the Tik Tok For You page

algorithm and my weakness for celebrities.

I was hooked on Timothee Chalamet. And,

as I made my way through his repertoire, I

discovered the gem that is “Hot Summer

Nights.” At peak brooding nerd status,

Chalamet embodies the best kind of

protagonist — his confidence grows as he

finds something he’s good at and he flirts his

way through the summer. Saturated within

an inch of its life, “Hot Summer Nights” is a

film that made me nostalgic for the summer

days filled with carnivals and a booming

weed business that I never had.

— Emma Chang, Daily Arts Writer

“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is a

wonderfully, unsettlingly bizarre time.

Helmed by the absurdist indie director

Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”) and

starring Colin Farrell (“In Bruges”), it

presents a deeply strange psychological

thriller about a cardiologist and the

peculiar relationship he has with the son

of a patient that died on his operating table.

Like Yorgos’s 2015 dystopian black comedy

“The Lobster” (which is on Netflix and

would make for a wickedly-weird Colin

Farrell double feature), all the characters in

the world of “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

speak with a deadpan, utilitarian directness

that should be antithetical to the profession

of the actor. It’s quite an acquired taste, but

once you learn to listen the film is unlike

many other thrillers. It’s got uncanny


uncomfortable themes of power, culpability,

and justice, leaving one wondering what the

hell they just watched.

— Jacob Lusk, Daily Arts Writer


It’s psychotic,

horrific and deeply,



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