Release Date: Nov 13, 2015
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): R&B, Pop/Rock, Alternative R&B
It may well be a coincidence that ‘AQU?RIA’ shares its name with a computer game based around underwater journeys of self-discovery, but it’s a fitting one. Since 2013, BOOTS has been making deliberate efforts to move away from his prolific work on ‘Beyoncé’ - the project that flung him into the spotlight from relative obscurity. Since then he’s worked on FKA twigs’ ‘M3LL155X’ EP, Run the Jewels’ track ‘Early,’ and solo material of a strikingly diverse nature.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. An air of mystery surrounds BOOTS, a shroud around who he is and what he has in store as an artist. Hell, he's literally shrouded on the album cover to his solo full-length debut, AQUARIA. Whether the mystery is a marketing tactic à la The Weeknd (remember that?), or he really is just that private, BOOTS doesn't seem to be making a huge public to do over this release.
Beyond the dissonant clash, a trio of smoothed-out tracks near the end of the album provide a break from the excitement: the drugged-out slow jam "Earthquake," the ghost-dirge "Only," and the plaintive, fame-phobic "Still," which actually brings the brightest shine to an overall ominous and thrilling affair. .
Miami-born Jordy Asher (a.k.a. Boots) broke out as a producer when his moody beats became a highlight of Beyonce's 2013 self-titled album. Yet his debut, Aquaria, is hardly the coming out party you'd expect from a guy who could've easily gone the route of an A-list hitmaker. There are no superstar cameos, and R&B is only a small element in a sound that often recalls Radiohead in electro-rock exploration mode, the spookiest Berlin Bowie or Tricky's craggy Nineties trip-hop.
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.
“They’ll keep burning off your wings, they’ll keep burning off your legs,” warns Boots, a man who works within the melancholy of the minor chord. From the crunchy synths and moody beats of Brooklyn Gamma to the spectral guitars of Still, Jordan Asher’s music is as industrial as a Trent Reznor score. This is his first album since being plucked from obscurity to write and produce much of Beyoncé’s 2013 album, and you wonder if some of its songs were considered for use by the pop queen (there’s a sample used on C.U.R.E.
The fact that you still can't mention Boots without also mentioning Beyoncé teaches two mournful lessons: 1) It's a mixed bag to start your career with a zeitgeist-definitive icon re-recording your best songs, and 2) It's even harder when you struggle to find a distinctive voice on your own. Four-fifths of Beyoncé had Boots' stamp on it, and since then the artist and producer, whose real name is Jordan Asher, has been busy. He's brought his surly, gentle, unfurling darkness to a feature-heavy mixtape, a series of well-chosen collaborations—Run the Jewels and FKA twigs, most recently—and now a first album, Aquaria.
When Jordy Asher (aka Boots) was plucked from obscurity (aka the New York nightclub where he worked as a bartender and sometime DJ) and signed to Roc Nation about two and a half years ago, his sound was already polished and well-defined. He went on to leave an indelible fingerprint on Beyonce’s self-titled fifth studio album, creating a kind of latter-day music industry fairy tale narrative in the process: Work hard, and if you happen to be in the right place at the right time, the queen might see your true worth, pull you up onto her pedestal, and make all your rags-to-riches dreams come true. Asher’s auspicious debut, however, puts him in the unique position of having to re-establish himself as a solo artist outside of his association with his powerful friends.
Beyoncé’s most recent, self-titled album arrived unexpectedly online at the tail end of 2013. Almost as surprising as the album’s mode of release was its list of credits: alongside established artists like Sia, Timbaland and The Dream stood the mysterious name of Boots. Similarly eyebrow-raising was the appearance of the songwriter Jordan Asher on eight songs.
Catastrophe and death loom throughout “Aquaria,” the debut album by Boots, a.k.a. the songwriter, singer, rapper, instrumentalist and producer Jordy Asher. Its songs have titles like “Bombs Away,” “Earthquake,” “Gallows” and “Dead Come Running” and lyrics full of rubble, tombs and broken glass. The first words Boots offers on the album, in “Brooklyn Gamma,” are “It ain’t as good as it gets/if you got holes all over your chest.” His music, mostly his own instruments, provides a post-apocalyptic soundscape that’s simultaneously desolate and pressured.
Boots first attracted attention as the producer of Beyoncé’s “Haunted”—a factoid that unfortunately or not precedes his every artistic move. The swollen, echoing beats of that track are often cited as the perfect example of his style in the same way that Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” is considered a hallmark of Timbaland’s sound. The error in this thinking though is that, Boots, whose real name is Jordan Asher, isn’t a traditional producer.
Boots has an undeniable ear for melodies and a deft production touch, but he’s still finding his footing as a solo act. AQU?RIA has its share of high points, but there are also plenty of moments where you’re left wondering what would have happened if he’d turned these soundscapes over to more established artists. Known for his work with Beyoncé, FKA Twigs and Run The Jewels, Boots has made himself en vogue behind the boards thanks to his ability to create tense, genre-blending instrumentals.
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.