Aqui: First Trip Out

Jason Thompson


First Trip Out

Label: Ace Fu
US Release Date: 2004-11-15
UK Release Date: Available as import

AQUI is one of the most amazing rock bands I ever saw . . . see 'em before their [sic] famous!
-- Tom Ritchford

I cannot take advice from a critic who doesn't know the difference between they're and their. No matter, because in the case of Brooklyn, NY's Aqui, I made up my own mind without any persuasion. Yes, it's time once again for yours truly to go less gaga over something a few others seem to be drooling over for the most part. Sometimes I don't know if this boils down to hipster criticism or just bad taste, but Aqui didn't move me in any fashion other than to unceremoniously dump their CD into the trash can after I was done killing off a few brain cells listening to it.

Aqui is another band whose PR folks have decided to stick that whole "a band that defies categorization" bullshit upon. Simply, Aqui is bad metallic riffs and rhythm squeezed through a boring acid trip. But Aqui doesn't want to get stuck with that "metal" tag ("Metal simple will not do", says the press sheet.), trying instead to go for some more futuristic post-punk/freakout/metal label. In the end it doesn't matter. The one-sheet continues on to discuss the group's look while dropping in comparisons to Blade Runner and Mad Max. Hoo-rah.

"And where the hell are those techno sounds coming from when there is not a synth or sampler in sight", asks the sheet. I don't know. I take it they're bragging about Aqui's menacing way of throwing trashy retro items into their trashy "modern" style. But really, the synth-sounding bass and bleeps that litter "Please Send Love" are about as annoying as it gets. The band locks into this kind of idiotic robot groove, while lead singer Stephonik wails away, sounding like a cross between Chrissie Hynde and Robert Smith. That is, the worst aspects of both.

It's Stephonik who really makes Aqui not work for my ears. Her punkish delivery on "Roll" makes one yearn for the real Iggy Pop and not this clone. On "Action!", she sounds like she's about to go into an epileptic fit. And on "Kick! Score!" the vocal histrionics get about as good as listening to Diz McNally on the old Nickelodeon show Out of Control. To say the least, Stephonik and her band mates are perfectly matched, as the entire group seems like it's about to burn out on speed.

And what about those silly commanding song titles, anyway? You have the aforementioned "Action!" and "Kick! Score!", along with "Roll" and "Open! Go! Begin!" It's as if the de-evolution of Devo infiltrated Aqui and dropped the intelligence quotient way down into the gutter. But then again, I'm not sure anyone would actually listen to this group for the lyrics (sample from "There as It Bleeds": "We don't know how long we were lost but we made it out! / Yes, we were able to undo! / We sliced through and remembered that we carried the bell that lured the one they sought!"). It's all a strange blend of goofy early Rush imagery mixed with a bit of stale New Wave leftovers from the '80s.

Then again, I'm not sure what group of people would really get into Aqui. Would it be the head-banging metalheads? Probably not; this stuff really isn't that intense or emotional at its core. How about those post punk kiddies, then? Maybe, for a short time, though I can't see the demographic for this nonsense eking past someone of 22 years old. So I'm just going to call it and say Aqui probably won't break into anything truly huge (of course, I called it wrong on the equally dull Maroon 5). So while the others are saying things like "See them now before the bandwagon comes along," I'm just going to say "Brooklyn has plenty of groovy bands. Aqui isn't one of them."

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.