Dave Aju - Black Frames

  • Share
  • Dave Aju's 2008 debut album, Open Wide, was constructed entirely from noises he made with his mouth. For his next trick, on 2012's Heirlooms, the San Francisco native reworked samples of recordings left behind by his late father, a jazz trumpeter. The thing is, you'd probably never have guessed those album's origins if he hadn't made them clear—in both cases Aju processed his source material to such an extent that they sounded nigh-on indistinguishable from synths and percussion. That might seem a little pointless on paper, but the offbeat house that came out of those projects very much had its own distinct flavour. Album number three doesn't have any overarching concept behind it, though given the adroit sonic manipulation Aju has displayed in the past, he could probably have made it entirely from samples of a lawnmower. But while he's presumably given himself a wider scope than before, Black Frames actually finds him narrowing his focus somewhat. There are none of the diversions into broken beat and funk found on his other albums, and only glimpses of his jazz roots. Instead, Black Frames feels like the most straight-up and stripped-down dance music Aju has ever done. On "Clean Street," he sings "We can go all night / we can go all day" over a looped house beat. On "Bee's Birth," his husky voice and the snappy bass recall Jamie Lidell. That said, as a whole Black Frames is Aju's darkest album to date. He says it was inspired by a move (from San Francisco to Berlin) and a break-up. He addresses this most obviously on "Psylica," which sees him trading lines like "My love can't you see / we're stuck" with the artist Qzen, while a bassline twists like a tense knot in the stomach. There are oddly unnerving elements in most of the tracks, such as the morose jazz chords in "When We Drift" or the electronic churning in "Law." Even "Vins Noir," despite having the album's most club-friendly bassline, knocks you off guard with portentous ivories and a murky breakdown. When he sings "Got to move on / no looking back," he sounds more like someone running desperately from the past than towards a brighter future. But what is certain is that Aju has put his heart into this, which is all a good album really needs.
  • Tracklist
      01. Race On Haight 02. Nu Threads 03. Clean St 04. Nobody Knows 05. Vins Noirs 06. Psylica 07. Law 08. Bee's Birth 09. When We Drift