It may well be a coincidence that ‘AQUΛRIA’ shares its name with a computer game based around underwater journeys of self-discovery, but it’s a fitting one. Since 2013, BOOTS has been making deliberate efforts to move away from his prolific work on ‘Beyoncé’ - the project that flung him into the spotlight from relative obscurity. Since then he’s worked on FKA twigs’ ‘M3LL155X’ EP, Run the Jewels’ track ‘Early,’ and solo material of a strikingly diverse nature. Asher’s debut mixtape ‘WinterSpringSummerFall’ filled every speculative gap, wiping the slate clean, and telling BOOTS’ story on his own terms. ‘Motorcycle Jesus’ meanwhile moved in a far more conceptual direction. All paths lead to ‘AQUΛRIA.’
BOOTS’ diction - compressed, meandering, and wonderfully nonchalant - sits at odds with his wild, boundless approach to production elsewhere, and consistently across ‘AQUΛRIA,’ the stark contrast keeps on working magic. ‘Gallows’ stutters and pulses, Asher singing hauntingly of the hangman’s noose, strangely distant all the while. Former Dirty Projectors member Deradoorian guests on the title-track, while Asher combines weighted syllables in stalking succession. “I must to quake through the crust that your Bible swinging dicks reverse,” he says, turning every word over in his palm, and keenly focused on how each one feels.
The static-glitchy suggestion of‘Bombs Away,’ and the bizarre thrash-rock strains pushing ‘I Run Roulette’ forward stand up as highlights in a brilliant chaotic and verging on brazen debut. In this bubbling cauldron that refuses to be contained, Asher finds the liberation he’s been searching for.