Once more, Don Aaron (formerly stylised as don.a.a.ron) is inviting you to buckle up your seatbelt in his musical Delorean, with his coordinates set on yet another retro-flavoured voyage. The Singaporean vaporwave musician is entering a stage of self-acceptance with this next chapter, simplifying his alias and removing the mask that previously concealed his mug. In this phase of liberation, he’s channelled this newfound energy into his sophomore full-length, FREEDOM?, which takes on a more conceptual disposition than his 2019 debut, F A C T S. It’s a more cohesive world that still possesses his signature flashback elements and ’80s sonic paraphernalia, bearing a mature, fuller body like an aged whisky.
Don Aaron declares that the album is “inspired by the freedoms we had in the past, the freedoms we have right now, and the uncertainty of the future”. He continues, “When I was a teenager, I remember the feelings of freedom I had when I went to the beach with some friends. Having a barbecue, staying up all night, having a beer or two or some cigarettes when you clearly weren’t supposed to, hanging out with beautiful strangers, listening to music, watching the sun come out of the bottom of the sea while you were half asleep. I’ve been wanting to capture that feeling in music for many years. And this is the final result."
Indeed, the notion of nostalgia flows generously in this fine-tuned vessel. The album is much like the visual exploration of a rugged metropolis that’s blanketed in a lo-fi filter, with each track venturing into a new gritty habitat. With Don Aaron in the driver’s seat, he takes listeners through an expedition of mystery, tranquillity and neon electricity, dotted with some unexpected detours and surprising bumps in the middle.
He escorts listeners into the psychedelic tropical oasis of ‘PANAMA GREY’, the shimmering synth-wave highway of ‘NINEGLOW (STAGE 2 / OCEAN SUITE (WORLD MINUS 1)’, the black-and-white-tinted alleys of ‘TRANQUIL LISA’ that wields noir-styled trumpets, and the sensual red light district of ‘ITS UR BODY’ that comes to life with his signature suave timbre. These are all held together by a cohesive aesthetic, with common denominators comprising plump basslines, levitating pads, smooth guitar licks and reverberating drum work.
Like the album’s title suggests, Don Aaron does sound free and unbridled in his execution, not restricted by the critic-defined nuances of the vaporwave movement. This is a musician with so much more to give.
FREEDOM? is out now on Australian label, Sunset Grid, and you can listen to it here. The album will also be released on cassette, VHS, and the novel Game Boy Advance platform through Oasis Ltd Records.
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