With his first big production under the BOOTS moniker being his work on Beyoncé’s self-titled surprise album in 2013, Jordan Asher has had the kind of introduction most artists can only dream of. His influence dominated the album, from the floaty hip-hop of No Angel to the industrial R&B of Ghost and Haunted. As our first introduction to BOOTS, it set the initial tone of his career perfectly. However, it’s on AQUARIA that we see the true extent of his talent.
AQUARIA is rooted in a mechanical, industrial hip-hop sound, yet moves between different extremes such as the atmospheric chamber pop-inspired R&B of the title track to a heavier rock influence on Dead Come Running and I Run Roulette. It’s an entirely different beast from Beyoncé or his earlier mixtape WinterSpringSummerFall, and one that feeds off of Asher’s energy; his vocals are often the grounding point that sells the song, whether he’s mumbling almost incoherently over the mechanical cacophony of Gallows or spitting a gliding rap verse over C.U.R.E.
But for all the hip-hop and industrial elements it takes on, there’s still an element of pop that keeps it from becoming inaccessible. The album passes its most avant-garde moment early on with the wall of sound that closes Brooklyn Gamma, keeping the focus on flow and style thereafter. The only other real oddball moment is Only, a jazzy piano track that’s strange only in that it conflicts with the more bombastic moments. The song still fits in with the atmosphere and moody sound of the album at large, and serves to showcase yet another side Asher’s already impressive versatility; sides that fit perfectly together to make a thematically secure and coherent album.
The overall result is amazingly fresh; it expands on what we already knew of Asher’s style under the BOOTS moniker, and offers some major compelling moments, both vocally—such as his rapping on C.U.R.E.—and production-wise. He may have found his big break on Beyoncé, but it was merely a launching point; Asher has been on a constant rise since then, and if AQUARIA is any indication, he’s got an even brighter future to look forward to.