Today, we’re excited to premiere the new album from Canadian experimental R&B songwriter and producer Quinton Barnes, Aarupa.
For those who follow the Grimalkin collective, it’s likely that your first exposure to Quinton was the “Domestika” single released earlier this, which made a strong impression with us with its soulful, intimate minimalism. That said, it was noted that it “didn’t make the cut” for Aarupa, which is always an effective way to hype an album. In a lot of instances, this promise doesn’t follow through, but having listened to Aarupa in full, we can safely say that as good as that single was, it does little to prepare you for this genre-bending odyssey.
Barnes gets quick to work destroying any preconceived notions about what he does with the opening title track, a hard-hitting pitch-modulated trap cut where he flexes his rapping and colorful production. If “Domestika” was reserved or subtle, “Aarupa” is the polar opposite, wielding idiosyncrasy with the force of a sledgehammer, the grace of a contemporary dance, and the mind-altering potency of an acid trip. While “Domestika” was easy to connect with, “Aarupa” is more difficult to penetrate with its dense presentation, but stands as a monument to Quinton’s ambition. It also, as they say, goes.
What follows are the two most ‘traditional’ tracks, “He” and “This Moment”, the songs most likely to catch on in the mainstream. “He” in particular feels like a radio hit with with its bouncy electronics and immediate hi-hat loop paving a smooth road for Barnes’ flexible self-harmonized vocals to coast on. Meanwhile, “This Moment” is the closest Quinton comes to evoking Prince, at least on baseis of composition and vocals: more sprawling than “He” and dripping in sensuality, but not quite as off-the-wall as what’s to come.
It’s near impossible to boil down Barnes to a track, but if it absolutely had to be done, centerpiece “Tru Vbva” would have to be the pick. As it begins, it seems as though it’ll go forward with the same general framework as its two preceding tracks, but through noisy swarms of electronics, drones, string samples, and more, it evolves readily, over and over, across its duration. As the album moves into its back half, it fully embraces oddity after having hooked the listener into its world. “Femmedomme” is by and large a six minute instrumental aside from the repetition of the title: warping, a little seedy. The ending passage reminds me of old PC-98 OSTs for games such as YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World. “Injustice”, meanwhile, is a rare instance removed from trap. The bouncy electronics of “He” return, now dressed in glitchy bouquets and cool waves of ambiance.
“Nonbinary” is a brightly toned dance track, playing the warm glow of its main beat against punchy hits of metallic cold. Though not technically the closer (that honor goes to outro “Slowbuild”), it serves as something of a thematic closing statement of Aarupa beyond its literal meaning. Throughout Aarupa, Quinton refuses to be traditionally defined, both as a person, and as an artist. As a result, it’s a vicariously freeing listen that demonstrates the vision of an individual whose vast array of talents are too big to fit in any box.
You can stream Aarupa in its entirety below:
Favorite tracks: “Aarupa”, “Tru Vbva”, “Nonbinary”
Quinton Barnes’ ‘Aarupa’ is out now on digital, cassette, and lathe cut vinyl through Grimalkin Records here. All digital sale proceeds go to Barnes, all cassette proceeds go to Prisoners with AIDS & HIV Support Action Network, and all lathe proceeds go towards future label efforts (production and labor). Be sure to follow Barnes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with his work.