I didn’t know who Aa was until I saw them at Woodland in 2011. I was with my mate Andy, and we were debating the current conflagration of auxiliary drummers in indie rock. We had seen some Aussie bands who shall remain nameless whose use of the extra percussion was at best a novelty and at worst a waste of time, poorly masking the basic nature of the band’s music with what was deemed as “tribal rhythms”. Tropical pop? Don’t make me laugh. Yet Aa are a percussion tour de force, continual drumbeats layered over each other until the resultant cacophony is a myopic catharsis, a trembling pummelling. When they brought out more drums onto the floor, I was swept up in the theatrics, commandeering one to join in myself. Such audience participation can become a nightmare, but like the Boardrum experience, Aa kept everything loose yet precise, with every “drummer” attuned to their worldview. It was a killer show and showed that there are a few bands out there where more than one drumkit isn’t just warranted yet essential.
But after their great 2011 release mAate (itself a combination of their 2007 debut GAame and their Glossy EP from 2009), I hadn’t kept track of the Brooklyn collective. Now Northern Spy Records has released their new album, VoyAager, and…well, I don't know. It goes without saying that change is good in the world of music, but also without saying that change for change's sake is bullshit at best. I'm not saying that Aa are doing something wrong with mixing things up, but the more Battles-esque tracks here (I'm talking Tyondai Braxton-era Battles too, just listen to 'Drug Mom') bewilder me more than energise. The paring back of older track 'Glossy' does give a sense of distilled acidity, yet the elongated tension was what brought this band into their element. The kaleidoscopic hallucinogens were part and parcel to Aa's MO, I know, but it just all seems too saccharine. Still, there are ominous freaks like 'Pug Pit' to look forward to.
Maybe I'm the one who's changed. I bet these tracks kill live, which to be honest is the only way to experience em. Istill have their drumsticks at home too, so we're still mAates.
Grab VoyAager here.