Boots – 'Aquaria'
Jordan Asher has made beats for Beyoncé, but does his solo debut prove he suits the shadows better than the limelight?
A mysterious producer with A-list connections, Boots is secretive about his past. The rumour mill has been his primary marketing tool so far and if the ‘mysterious producer’ trope seems tired by now – well, it’s working. At this stage, he is still known predominantly as the man who, in 2013, produced most of Beyoncé’s self-titled fifth album, which shifted 1.2 million copies in its first week.
The Miami-born producer and songwriter’s real name is Jordan Asher, he’s in his late twenties, was previously in New York buzz band Blonds and is signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. Perhaps spuriously, Asher also claims he rose from poverty and obscurity to work on ‘Beyoncé’; that he was a bartender in Brooklyn and lived in a van immediately beforehand. He’s spoken about her album, but refuses to reveal how he came to produce the pop powerhouse – a fact that has created plenty of speculation.
It’s also prompted the question of whether his debut album, ‘Aquaria’, will see him cross over to mainstream success in his own right. Yet across 10 tracks of tense, tightly wound electronic pop, Boots declines to emulate Beyoncé’s empowering, meme-friendly platitudes. Besides shimmering guitar ballad ‘Still’, the record is preoccupied with angst and paranoia.
He intones “my best day is your worst day” on the jittery, percussion-led ‘Brooklyn Gamma’ and mutters that “dead come running on the evening news” through the electro squall of ‘Dead Come Running’, the grinding bassline of which sounds like a circular saw cleaving a laptop in two. On ‘I Run Roulette’ and ‘Earthquake’, Asher effectively strips away the bass and drums, allowing his voice to float in the ether, conveying an eerie sense of alienation.
The problem is, these impressive production techniques are in greater abundance than actual tunes. With clever tricks rather than pop hooks, expressionistic (and often mumbled) lyrics and a lack of relatable themes, ‘Aquaria’ can feel cold and self-involved. Asher has helmed production duties for hip-hop duo Run The Jewels and R&B provocateur FKA Twigs, but his music and persona are less distinctive than theirs, suggesting Boots is more naturally a mysterious collaborator than the main attraction.
Director: Jordan Asher
Record label: Columbia
Release date: 13 Nov, 2015