It’s fair to say that majority of producers and musicians will, for the majority of their careers, stick to what they know. They might stay with the same instruments, but in most cases, the same genre. In a world of music that is ever changing, lines between genres are constantly shifting, so one might be forgiven for mislabeling something every once in a while.
With the release of his debut album Aa, Philadelphia producer Baauer, real name Harry Bauer Rodrigues, has thrown off the shackles placed on him by the masses – pigeonholing. Having for years been labeled as a trap producer, Aa’s 13 tracks see him moving from genre to genre, and demonstrating his abilities across all facets of electronic music.
GoGo! is the first single taken from Aa, which Harry released before his Halloween show in Sydney last year. It’s been quite a while, and at first listen, you might have imagined what the rest of the album would have been like – the same heavy and intricate trap production that the Baauer name has become known for. Further down the track we got Day Ones – Baauer’s very successful attempt at a bass heavy grime track featuring vocals by up and comers Leikeli47 and Novelist. It’s exactly what you’d expect, and it’s been working its charms since it debuted on Colbert early last month. Then just less than a month ago we got Pusha T and Future coming together on Kung Fu – with production you could’ve mistaken was an original for either MC (so fitting). If you’ve been paying any attention to the release of Aa, you would have already known that there was a huge bunch of features coming – with M.I.A., G Dragon, TT the Artist and Tirzah all perfectly complimenting Baauer’s work in impressive and varied ways. Each track is constructed in a way that gets the most out of each feature – with Baauer’s instrumentation and flow perfectly complimenting the voices of his collaborators, and those collaborators each giving some of their best performances in recent memory. The only disappointing guest feature, as surprising as it is to say, is Rustie. Though Church Reprise is a beautifully entrancing one and a half minutes, it’s not what a Baauer/Rustie collaboration should have been. With both their masteries of bass and crazy synths, Church Reprise should be the banger of the year without a doubt – but maybe them not doing that was a statement about their work in itself?
Part of what makes this album such a joy and an experience is the diversity in the sounds that Baauer makes use of. Those who are familiar with Baauer’s work may have seen a documentary done by Red Bull Music a little over a year and a half ago, following Harry as he globetrotted, sampling sounds for use in his work. Some of those sounds and soundscapes make their way into Aa, and those that Harry’s made himself are as different as they are a pleasure to listen to. Though it’s not just synths, guitars and samples that are manipulated throughout, there are so many different and ever changing time signatures and tempos through this record that keep it sounding vibrant and playful after each and every listen. Even within the same tracks these tempos and genres are constantly shifting – Make It Bang goes from house influence, to straight up trap, and tops it all off with a jersey club finish – such impressive stuff. On top of all the huge sounds on the record, Baauer has also peeled it back on a number of songs, which are more like interludes. Sitting at the very middle of the album, Good & Bad is a minute of swirling vocals that help to split up the more intense moments of Aa – but if only it was longer. Most of all though, this album is versatile. Almost every track finds its home both in a set of headphones and on a dancefloor. On one level, it’s all so intricate, with so many layers working together to dazzle your ears. On another, it bangs – HARD.
There’s no doubt in my mind that if I were to say the word Baauer to anyone on the street, majority would immediately reply – “is that the dude that did the Harlem Shake?” They’d be right of course, but they’d be missing out on work by a producer who has over the last few years shown that he’s so much more than that. Aa is Harry’s scream to the heavens that he’s one of the most versatile producers around at the moment, and the fact that every track on this record is gold makes clear that he’s not slowing down any time soon.