Clipping along at a brief 33 minute runtime, LuckyMe star Baauer‘s debut album Aa manages to comprehensively globe-trot soundscapes and challenge traditional electronic music tropes with a concise, tongue-in-cheek sensibility. Perhaps the most striking element of the album upon first listen is its use of atmospheric experimentation; one can only think of Baauer’s 2014 Red Bull documentary Searching For Sound during the interlude between the Toro y Moi-esque “Pinku” and call-and-response riddim “Sow“, or the album’s opener, “Church“, tinged by the bustling din of a souq or the barely-there hum of a sakura. Aa certainly feels like a natural progression of Baauer’s 2014 EP ß in terms of production, both in the world-music inspired instrumentation and the inventive features from Novelist, Leikeili47, TT The Artist, Tirzah, and more. “Day Ones” and “Way from Me” are mature interpretations of the popular grime and garage genres, shying away from trendy, throwaway bulkiness in favour of complex simplicity and insistent precision from both producer and collaborator.
World-building is a key feature of the album. Though there are some obvious singles on Aa, when listening in full, there’s never a track that feels out of place in this immersive sonic journey. That’s a surprise for an album that’s loaded with rap features in its latter half, but Baauer’s subversive attention to detail and commitment to a global aural landscape crush the traditional EDM stereotypes —”Temple” may be the best example of how the New York producer bypasses the tremendously overdone “rappers on a trap banger” cliche, allowing M.I.A. and G Dragon to spit fiercely intense verses over an uncluttered layering of koto strings and subwoofer-rattling bass.
The quality of sound in Aa provides a distinctive edge to Baauer’s work, each track sounding just a bit tarnished and rough around the edges, a fuzzy white noise vibrating underneath the surface. It’s almost as if these songs were raw, unpolished gems waiting to be recognized for their true value. That genuine, natural, diamond-in-the-rough trait is what makes Baauer’s music alluring—as a concept, a world-music-meets-electronica album would have sounded trite when attempted by any other producer. However, Baauer deftly nails the execution of this potentially disastrous idea with a level of genius that’s unmatched by the majority of his peers.
Overall: 4.8 / 5
Must-listens: “Pinku”, “Aa”, “Temple”, “Sow”, “Make It Bang”, “Way from Me”
Aa is available for purchase on iTunes now.