After Baauer’s viral 2012 hit Harlem Shake, I imagine very few people expected to hear much else from him, instead he would live a quiet life surviving off royalties and maybe one more one hit wonder. Just under four years later, he has released his debut album Aa, seemingly very aware of the reputation which Harlem Shake gave him, tweeting “harlem shake is my creep (acoustic)”. The album has received all-important twitter approval from the likes of Skrillex and A-Trak (who obviously know what they’re talking about) as well as actress Chloë Moretz (who seems to know what she’s talking about too, and which is just pretty cool really).
The record is a mere 33 minutes long; over half of the songs are less than three minutes in length, which gives me the impression that Baauer is almost asking for them to be remixed. Yet this is not necessarily a ploy for publicity, but rather a demonstration of his genuine interest in electronic music in all its forms. Baauer’s own remixes include Disclosure’s You & Me, as well 2014’s Soulja, made up of Soulja Boy lyrics and a tribal beat which is reminiscent of the album’s latest single Temple, featuring M.I.A. and South Korean rapper G-DRAGON. Other names that feature on the album are rappers Pusha T, Novelist, Future, Tirzah, TT The Artist and Leikeli47 as well as producer Rustie, and it’s split roughly 50/50 between solo tracks and collaborations, providing an exciting collection of different sounds.
Four tracks from Aa have been released as singles: GoGo!, Day Ones, Kung Fu and Temple. My interest in the album was first sparked upon hearing GoGo!, having previously known Baauer only from the dark days of Harlem Shake. Its machine-gun percussion and forceful synth riffs became the energising soundtrack to for my daily trek to uni up Cardiac Hill for weeks to come. Similarly, bass-heavy Day Ones can be described as energising; it’s the type of song that makes you (well me, anyway) want to squat in the middle of a packed dance floor and bounce vigorously, wildly firing finger guns with one hand and clutching a Ralph Lauren cap to your head with the other. Both Kung Fu and Temple have proved popular with critics and the public, premiered as World Records on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 radio show and have over a million plays on Spotify.
Aside from the singles, other highlights of the record include the exotic Sow, which again is unavoidably boogie-inducing, featuring the Tetris theme song which is integrated so seamlessly that you wouldn’t even think to question it. The opening track Church (which later reappears as Church Reprise) begins with striking, assured percussion which fades into hazy synths, reminiscent of Day 1, the opener of SBTRKT’s 2014 record Wonder Where We Land. Tropical tones (Pinku) and chilled synths with a hint of trap coming through in the vocals (Good & Bad) complement the album’s more intense, violent sounds which often come with rap such as Novelist and Leikeli47 on Day Ones, creating an album which, against logic, plays so smoothly from start to finish that it’s often difficult to distinguish where one song ends and another begins.
With this record, Baauer has shattered the reputation that Harlem Shake gave him, at least within the music industry. However, he will be forever haunted by its memory thanks to the millions of listeners, oblivious to the release of Aa, who refuse to forget the trap hit, immortalised by the modern meme. I hope Baauer, like Thom Yorke, finds solace in the knowledge that there are people, albeit only a small proportion of Harlem Shake fans, who know that his music is much more than just a YouTube sensation.