With music venues all over the country being unable to open, the living room with the lights out is the closest we get to a club. Lockdown has seen a slew of solo releases by various artists, perhaps better known for their group projects. Some have been products of lockdown, others just coincidentally timed.
Rachel Aggs already managed to release an album with the always excellent trio Shopping, earlier this year. Seeing that she wrote and recorded an entire solo album in lockdown is then a very pleasant surprise indeed.
Known for fronting the aforementioned Shopping, as well as Trash Kit and Sacred Paws, the immediate expectation is of highlife guitars and direct chant-along vocals.
This makes the opener to ‘//TAPE 1//’, Welcoming The Waves, all the more surprising. It pits computer game bloops, bends, and aquatic wobbles against each other. All set to a constant drum machine beat, there is a hint of Aggs’ signature guitar playing. This, however, is more restrained. The simple vocal melody combined with the vibrant cartoonish instrumentation is infectious.
It seems that Aggs (known here simply as R.Aggs) has used this project as an opportunity to experiment and it really works for her.
The melodic bassline and low end guitar of Speeding dance together to a minimal lo-fi beat. Casio keys provide soft, droney chords and twinkling hooks. Although extremely repetitive in both the lyrics and music, it’s a delight.
Exuberance cranks up the pace, with indie rock guitar and bass, although the drums are never anything more than a solitary kick.
The layers of guitar, the dirty guitar solo and constant arpeggio create various timbres and polyrhythms.
The percussive keys of What Will Become set the perfect platform for Aggs to demonstrate her signature guitar chops. Tell Us Yourself apes the guitar intro of Pavement’s “Gold Soundz” before morphing into something entirely different. It adds more percussive keys and beautiful syncopation.
The doubled up guitar and bass groove of White Walls has hints of Beck’s “Black Tambourine”, with fluttering keys and fun overlapping vocal parts.
There’s a 70s science programme vibe to the arpeggios of Mt Florida and Side By Side. The former combines this with a simple acoustic guitar line, beautiful violin and wave samples. The skittering drums lend a Sam Prekop-esque quality to the instrumental. The latter is a really well constructed and confident pop song. One could easily imagine this being a Sacred Paws song in a non-COVID 2020.
The added lyrical message of unity only makes this more joyous. Back Of My Hand is again very Sacred Paws, despite the minimal drums. You can totally imagine Eilidh Rodgers adding those delightfully giddy drums to the great backing vocals, super catchy bass line and chiming guitars.
Hold On To Yr Head boasts nicely distorted drum beats, a great bass line and funky phasing guitars. It’s music to strut down the street to.
Highlife guitars and great, filtered synth arpeggios fizz and bloop around a four to the floor drum beat on Sky Is Falling.
Aggs closes this //TAPE 1with its most expansive track.
The clubby drums and simple distorted bassline allow the vocals to build beautiful harmonies while the guitars play little motifs and disappear to make way for delicately manipulated synth arpeggios. There are layers of feel good melody and room left to keep in accidents.
Throughout //TAPE 1// what would normally be at 100 miles an hour has been slowed down, giving a more introspective feel. It is what defines this outing as R.Aggs and it opens another door. The playful synths build on what was hinted at on Shopping’s “All Or Nothing”. This is yet another hit from one of the UK’s most prolific musicians.