Artist: Aquarian

Release: The Snake That Eats Itself

Label: Bedouin Records

Release Date: Digital – January 24th / Vinyl February 14th, 2020

An Ouroboros is a symbol that dates back to pre-internet. I know it’s hard to imagine something that long ago. In fact, it actually goes back much further, when communication involved drawing on walls, rather than poking a magic black box with a screen. Yes, the Ouroboros, which depicts a serpent eating its own tail, actually can be traced to ancient Egyptian iconography. It is often a symbol of alchemy, or even the circle of life, where the tail replicates a phallus, and the mouth, a womb. The Snake That Eats Itself is a masterful maunder into the hedonistic sound of electronic music and a reflection of a contemporary sound that combines devastating whiplashing beats, with delusionally harrowed sounds. 

The creator of this 10-track musical spectacle is by none other than Canadian born producer Aquarium. The Berlin-based artist is coming off the back of a stirring amount of delicious works. Why delicious? Because the man loves food. From his Hanger Management label to his ‘Hamburglar Helper‘ video, where he combines pulsating techno beats with everyone’s favourite swearing old git, and sometimes celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsey, and his brouhaha reality television series, ‘Hell’s Kitchen.’ Although he revels in the darker side of techno, his sense of irony and wit is commendable in a, sometimes, too earnest scene, coming full circle with an album of a snake eating itself. His last project was a smashing collaborative effort with Deapmash as AQXDM. 

Enough of the small, well quite large, talk. On to the album. Electronic music can often be mindless, 4 to the floor beats of a repetitive booming nature allowing the mind to drift as you get lost in a sea of bodies on a club floor. Then someone like Aquarium comes along and drowns his music in emotion. Each chord, percussion, drone, and synth comes with its own emotional baggage, it unloads every part of his being that was held in him upon creating this spectacle. A bevy of sounds that merges techno, drone, breakbeat, noise, IDM, darkwave into a concoction of reflective bliss, dismay, serenity, melancholy, yearning, and even triumph.

The album kicks off with ‘End Credits,’ and yes, an album about the perpetuity of life and a snake eating itself beginning with that title is beautifully ironic. The cut begins with a beautiful bombinate, creating scenic horizons of that chime as the drone sweeps across the musical terrain. It crackles, like a campfire that emanates not only light but enlightenment for the observer. A wistful breeze blows in a juxtaposed and chippy noise that leaves as quickly as it entered. 

‘Blood Sugar’ is one of the noteworthy tracks of the composition. A nine-minute harrowing escapade, producing long winding roads down a forest that begins to sink in. The bass drum is a pacesetter, echoed and deep enough to really sink in. It is coupled with a militant snappy quick snare that together descends dread, further and further down the rabbit hole as unfamiliar synths act as a guide. It understands the essence of echo and how a few stripped back elements can feel like several when compounded correctly. The journey, although treacherous, is relieved by ethereal synths, angelic and comforting; before some hard 90s influenced rave-breakbeat drums raucously convulse, trip, and spasm the mind.

The paradox nature of the album combines light with dark, some merge the two, some stand-alone. ‘Hate Is A Strong Word’ initially feels like the time skip in Zelda: Ocarina Of Time back at Hyrule’s castle. Everyone has become an ominous zombie, and the castle floats over a bed of lava. The eerie feeling is almost bending, with a drone that would summon the grim reaper offering his soul. The maracas of death shake in the background, similar to sandpaper being rubbed on a skirting board. This all leads to the all mighty bass drum. It’s as if someone replaced Jack Nicholson’s axe with Mjölnir for that famous scene in The Shining. All-powerful and core rattling, the mood shifts to hype, triumph, and suddenly the fear is turned on its head, the hunted has become the hunter.

The tenth and final track is ‘365 Days And Counting’. A high energy assault, with an assertive yet amenable cut that feels free and tense simultaneously. It feels like a combination of M83 and Aphex Twin. There are the rhythmic bass drum and metronome handclaps that are just caught in an electrical hurricane of hats, snares, snaps, and tin taps that create pandemonium. As has become apparent with the album, the wistful drones and ethereal synths tap into the emotive nature of humans, and among the chaos, we can find peace. All things end, and we must face that, but as all things end, they also begin.

The album is accompanied by some stunning artwork from Sougwen Chung. The entire body of work is truly remarkable: it’s a step up from Gordon Ramsey making burgers to a techno beat.