Eros + Thanatos
Since 2011, producer and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Asher—aka BOOTS—has been shooting off across a fairly anomalous career arc, even by the standards of a post-Napster, post-boundaries musical climate. After fronting a handful of obscure indie-rock acts, Asher co-masterminded arguably the most discussed pop album of 2013—Beyoncé‘s self-titled fifth effort. Since then, BOOTS has worked with rap super-duo Run the Jewels, as well as produced FKA Twigs’ third full-length. Now, on his solo debut Aquaria (2014’s SpringSummerWinter is technically classified as a mixtape), Asher surrounds his pop instincts with dark, decayed textures, reflecting a very real fear of a world come undone.
BOOTS wears his influences on his sleeve, mixing the grinding, dissonant synthwork of latter-day Nine Inch Nails (“I Run Roulette”) and El-P (“Bombs Away”) with dusky, Radiohead-style balladry (“Only”). Appropriately, his singing alternates between a Thom Yorke falsetto and a deadpan rap cadence that could be likened to Beck—if he had a bleaker outlook. Still, BOOTS possesses enough of a unified vision to push beyond the realm of mere pastiche, and Aquaria succeeds on its own merits.
Lyrically, Aquaria is bizarre and apocalyptic; a hallucinatory joining of sex and fear. “If I had tits you’d blow all over me / Worldwide, flick my clit, I’ll blow globally,” Asher mutters on “Bombs Away,” before adding “it’s a fear based trade,” as if to clarify. Between spitting quasi-Dada bars like “mystic circumcision / get the car keys,” “Oraclies” sees BOOTS lamenting stone-carved drones and exes on his phone. Later, over flitty handclaps and an occasional “White Rabbit” bass-line, he name drops the infamous early-90’s Heaven’s Gate cult and speaks of “bibles swinging dicks” to win elections.
Taken in its entirety, Aquaria succeeds as a strange but rewarding experiment in pop music, equally sensual and ominous. It plays like a fever, or a premonition—a warning of hard times to come. A record mourning the future; the perfect soundtrack for make-out sessions after Western civilization collapses.