Since "Harlem Shake" took hold of the mainstream in 2013, it feels like Rodrigues has been intentionally distant. His long-promised album never materialized. Instead, he released tracks here and there, from inconsequential instrumentals to big-name collaborations (Just Blaze and Fetty Wap among them). A solid EP hinted at larger things that never came, and then a cancelled world tour cast a pall over Rodrigues's future as a whole. It seemed as if he was afraid to grab his big moment (when he made a late-night TV appearance, he was as out of the picture as possible). Now, the long-delayed Baauer album has finally arrived, and though curiously slight, it's not bad. Reportedly inspired by Rodrigues's world travels in the face of his success, Aa is a smarter and more diverse record than anything he's ever released.
The 34-minute album is split between Rodrigues's two sides. On the first half, you've got the wacky instrumentals he built his name on, while the second half rounds up a bunch of rappers to show off his beatmaker side. The record starts strong, gliding through instrumentals that play on Rodrigues's strengths. He makes heavy club tracks padded by pop-calibre melodies, like the mush-mouth vocals and basslines that make "Body" feel breezy instead of booming. Elsewhere, Rodrigues turns crisp samples into crisper percussion—one of his best tricks. Brief tracks like "Pinku" and "Good & Bad," however, play more like diversions than fleshed-out ideas.
When it comes to the vocalists, Rodrigues is at their mercy. The nuclear-powered grime of "Day Ones," featuring Novelist and an explosive performance from Leikeli47, is impossible to deny. The equally raucous "Make It Bang," with TT The Artist, rides on a killer descending bassline. On the other hand, "Temple," the G Dragon and MIA team-up, isn't as good as it looks on paper. And the tracklist's eye-catcher, "Kung Fu" featuring Pusha T and Future, is neither here nor there, throwing some solid verses from Pusha over a generic beat that sounds drained of Rodrigues's personality.
Aa isn't a disappointment, but clocking in at 34 minutes with a handful of tracks that feel unfinished, it's not exactly a home run either. For an album that took almost four years, it's strange that something as beautiful as "Church," which also gets a stunning reprise with Rustie, only lasts a minute and half. Like everything Rodrigues has released thus far, Aa is a brief yet tantalizing glimmer of colourful sound.
Tue / 15 Mar 2016
06. Day Ones feat. Novelist & Leikeli 47
07. Good & Bad
08. Way From Me feat. Tirzah
09. Temple feat. M.I.A & G Dragon
10. Make It Bang feat. TT The Artist
11. Kung Fu feat. Pusha T & Future
12. Church Reprise feat. Rustie