Aqui

The First Trip Out

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Ever wonder what would happen if the first edition of Sparks -- the operatic art rockers who recorded A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing, that is -- secretly reunited in the guise of pos-tmodern stoner rock experimentalists along the lines of At the Drive-In or the Mars Volta? Yeah, you probably haven't, but a listen to Aqui's The First Trip Out might make you wonder if this might be the Mael and Mankey brothers having a bit of deadpan, deliberately amateurish fun with listeners. Singer Stephonik X has the high-pitched ululations of the young Russell Mael down pat -- on a few tracks, she throws in a hint of Pornography-era Robert Smith's hyper-dramatic emotional outbursts for good measure -- and the songs mix robotic beats and heavily treated electronic noises with thudding, bottom-heavy alterna rock grooves. The over the top liner notes claim that there are no samplers or synthesizers on the album; if this is the case, someone went to an awful lot of unnecessary trouble to replicate perfectly the sound of the kind of cheap Yamaha setup you can buy at Costco. The First Trip Out isn't always actively bad, but between the truly irritating vocal affections (Stephonik rivals Karen O in the "I wish I sounded like Nina Hagen's love child" sweepstakes), the lack of lyrics that mean a thing, and the unimaginative arrangements and melodies, it's utterly nothing special.

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