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.