Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
There are solo albums and then there is this. The credits for the titular artist read “written, played, recorded, and mixed by A.A. Bondy.” There’s nothing more solo than that.
The first release in eight years, and fourth overall, from the ex-Verbena frontman finds him in an even sparser setting than 2011’s Believers. But although the sound is spare, Bondy delivers these dreamy, almost hypnotic songs with a surprising amount of soul and a potent if gauzy intensity. The keyboard-based approach layers acoustic piano, synths and drum patterns to create a wistful yet never, well seldom, diffuse groove over which Bondy delivers bizarre, sometimes disturbing, seemingly stream-of- consciousness lyrics in a hushed purr.
On the opening “Diamond Skull” — words never uttered in the tune — he sings “tequila zombie the final lion/ pass the peas quit your cryin’/ too much brain need more ass/ amber waves was my mother” with a deceptively sweet, even friendly tone. And it gets weirder than that. The easy rolling “Fentanyl Freddy” features this as a closing lyric: “and do my best to stay under/ out of the thunder/ of run your mouth/ and president whatever,” sung over ghostly piano and skeletal electronic pads of percussion.
Despite the randomness of ideas, the music and especially Bondy’s tenor voice, oddly similar at times to that of a subdued Aaron Neville, draw you in, enveloping the listener into Bondy’s odd, self-contained world. On “#Lost Hills” he talks of “a life/ in dreams/ to tell” which is a good enough description of the vague and reflective vibe he creates.
Considering the near decade between releases, these 10 tracks not only don’t break 40 minutes, but include two ambient, Eno-fashioned atmospheric pieces that float along like pleasant but forgettable background sound effects. That means you don’t get much A.A. Bondy music for your buck.
He’s come a long way from the chugging, Nirvana-influenced indie rocking of his Verbena days to this moody, often mesmerizing style. But even if there isn’t much meat here and the concepts are obtuse at best, the oddly titled Enderness (the beginning “T” is conspicuously, and intentionally, missing), taps into an enticing, low-key vibe that’s just as satisfying and far more personal.