Dave Aju, Open Wide

[Circus Company]

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San Francisco sound merchant Dave Aju has had the world waiting for Open Wide since his summertime smash “Crazy Place” was issued as a taster a few months back. Aju has always blended his house/techno with a smattering of outside influences, from funk to jazz and all points in between, and those styles are all on display here. Oh, and in case you hadn’t already heard, the one and only sound source used for the LP is Aju’s mouth. The mouth gimmick added some otherworldly sounds and timbres to “Crazy Place,” helping to make it the huge hit it became, but does it hold up for an entire album? Well, yes and no.

“Crazy Place” and its stunning Luciano remix are both included on the CD version of the album (vinyl buyers only get the original version), and a handful of other cuts here work the same infectious late-night vibe. “Anyway” pops and jacks like vintage Chicago house, complete with party-minded lyrics and saliva-soaked “organ” stabs, while “First Love” finds Aju ruminating about his favorite music with a clever reference-laden lyrics over a deep and soulful groove. The title track stops and starts with a broken Latin rhythm and clippity-clop percussion (presumably teeth). Each cut works a slick groove into new territory thanks to the utterly unique sounds at play here, and throughout the album, those sounds are the star, elevating the material beyond the run of the mill.

But there are a fair number of head scratchers here, too. Opener “Roundabout” is catchy as hell, but it sounds a bit too obvious, almost like a remixed Bobby McFerrin cut. “Bump” is a bouncing booty ode that can’t overcome its cheesy lyrics, and “Tapatio” has a sick bass attack peppered with bleeps that make for some credible electro-funk. Unfortunately, it’s hard to maintain momentum when you’re skipping genres from track to track. Nothing outright fails (although “Bump” comes damn close), but you have to wonder it Aju didn’t perhaps bite off more than he could chew in an effort to try out his voice on every style he could think of a tune and sound template for, without regard for how well it fit together in the big picture.

Regardless, Aju has crafted a classic single and a solid party album that literally sounds like nothing else you’ll hear this year. With judicious use of the skip button, Open Wide will have you grinning from ear to ear and wondering exactly what part of Aju’s piehole with which he made some of this.

le k  on October 16, 2008 at 5:12 AM

already a classic!

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