The release of A. G. Cook’s debut album comes hot on the heels of a 160-minute mixtape that threatened to steal all the bandwidth for it, a novel hype-building strategy perhaps intended to make up for his absence as a solo artist. Within it are hyperkinetic blasts of bubblegum bass mixed with guitar-based tunes that echo Oneohtrix Point Never’s recent work.
The most remarkable aspect of Apple’s production is its use of raw synth timbres, such as a pure saw wave in Animals, that pierce through the mix and feel as bracing for the ears as an ice-cold drink is for the teeth. Another is his eccentric approach to structure, with Xxoplex featuring multiple sharp U-turns and a couple of aborted drops to tease the listener.
The album kicks off with its catchiest tune, Oh Yeah: lyrics with an ambiguous level of earnestness (“Oh yeah, you don’t need it, no / yeah, just believe it”), digital pitch correction misused to an uncanny extent, and crushed lo-fi drums accentuating flanged guitar strums, it’s just the sort of twisted pop song that we expect from a PC Music artist. Elsewhere Airhead utilises a crystalline tapping motif and builds a surreal, garish trap beat around it, magic in the form of sound design.
Unfortunately not all the songs hit as hard as this. The loud sections of Beautiful Superstar are a bit too swampy and distorted to make any impact, while Haunted is characterised by what lyrics website Genius describes as “non-lyrical vocals”, which can also be described as unintelligible mumbling. Luckily the record makes up for this with some brilliant closing songs, the pitch-bent euphoria of Stargon and futuristic power-ballad Lifeline, that showcase Cook’s flair for chords and sound design.
With Apple A. G. Cook shows plenty of potential, but ultimately more consistency is needed with his songwriting if he is to really make his mark.