Aquaria revels in darkness. This debut project by Jordy Asher — better known as the enigmatic Beyoncé collaborator named Boots — delivers R&B beats characterized by grime and electronica-minded grooves that abhor conformity. Title track "Aquaria" revs with synths and soul claps, kicking off the 11-track proceedings in a Timberlake-esque mode. The aimless clash of "Bombs Away" recklessly seeks out an audience while the minimalist boom-bap echo of "Brooklyn Gamma" delivers disaffected vocals within an off-kilter structure.
The overall feeling of being on high alert runs through cuts like the sing-rap flow of "C.U.R.E." and the dub riddims of "Dead Come Running," while "Oraclies" mines quiet desperation and the acoustic groove of "Still" stands as a hopeful closer. Aquaria eludes categorization; while his work with folks like Beyoncé, Run The Jewels and FKA twigs wield an authoritative sound, Boots struggles to determine a distinct voice for this project — Is it Baroque pop? Nihilistic soul? Electronic R&B? — which proves more distracting than intriguing, keeping listeners at bay.
With more context — the kind that can only be afforded retroactively, by future releases — Aquaria might prove a fascinating listen. For now, it's likeable despite feeling a little too aimless. (Sony)