FEATURE: Awolnation “Shake off the shackles and get ready for a big, loud and glorious musical journey.”

Feeling bored? It’s grey outside, work is zzz and wallet empty? Your rescue has arrived. Awol is building a nation and is inviting you to come along. Shake off the shackles and get ready for a big, loud and glorious musical journey.

A one-man project, Awol (AKA Aaron Bruno) is creating a world as much as an album, a concept album if you want. Last week Awolnation came over to the UK to promote his EP and take us on a ride, a teaser of what we can expect from the album and coming conquest.

From the teaser we got, the concept is already there. First of all, the escape to the weird and wonderful world of Awolnation is reflected in the elaborate artwork which can be found online and accompanying the EP. 3D films, postcards and images of Awol in a space helmet gives us the visual idea of Awolnation as a kind of sci-fi dream. On the one hand this is Awol’s artistic expression of his musical vision and on the other a novel attempt at making some money from the music, finding a way to entice fans to buy records.

“Shake off the shackles and get ready for a big, loud and glorious musical journey.”

The escape to Awolnation is also reflected in the musical direction, or rather the apparent lack thereof. It’s all over the place but this fits the concept of a fun, loud and rules-breaking journey.

The inconsistency of the music fits into the personal journey which Awol has taken from a little white kid listening to gangsta rap on his Walkman (RIP), via some big record deals and musical success in the early 2000s with a post-grunge band and then glam-rock pop band, to a contemporary L.A. sprawling with musical talent and cross-fertilisation of genres. All those influences are there in the songs I’ve heard so far. Off the EP “Motherfucker” evokes the Beastie Boys while “Sail” is heavy and melodic. “Burn It Down” is like Andrew WK with a pop injection while “Guilty Filthy Soul” takes a real turn into pop until Sam Ronson and Wale turn it into hip hop in their remix. Awol is clearly a big fan of hip-hop and excited about collaborating with some of the brightest stars on that scene. “Curtains” is on as-yet unreleased “Knights of Shame” which Awol refers to as his “opus”. Judging by the epicness of what we’ve heard so far, it can only be huge.

“Aaron has all the charisma of a 70s rock star.”

What brings all these disparate tracks together is Awol himself, his “voice and beat” using his own words. The nickname Awol was earned as a teenager battling with his friends as he was notorious for always sneaking out of parties without saying bye to anyone. From having played in bands for the past ten years, Aaron has now gone Awol. He’s finally going at it alone, free to shape the music from song-writing, through recording and production to performance, bringing it all together in Awolnation.

Awol could have added “urgency and energy” to “voice and beat” as the delivery of the music also gives Awolnation shape. With a very charming band backing him, Aaron has all the charisma of a 70s rock star. Although this intimate gig was like “ a weird and wonderful dream in a large bedroom” it felt like he was playing for a stadium of 1500 rather than the Barfly of 15. He looks ready to take over the world and the only thing that is lacking from the performance is a crowd to catch him as he looks constantly ready to leap of the stage through the conviction with which he throws himself into the performance. There’s perhaps a little bit too much posing and pretension at first and it’s after the first three songs that we see the raw and sweaty performance which really impresses.

It’s “Guilty Filthy Soul” and “Burn It Down” which really gets the crowd going. These are fantastic songs, both on record and live. And take into the equation some famous collaborations and remixes and these could just be hits in 2011.

The hit-factor might also be the biggest problem with Awolnation. When I asked him about his preferred genre of music (considering he draws on so many!) he answered that he doesn’t have a preference but that he likes great songs – one-hit wonders and concept albums. From what we’ve heard so far I think he might be trying to do both. To pack a lot of stand-alone and individual songs into a unified sound and concept is hard, if not impossible to do both.

Nevertheless, whether we’re in for an epic journey or a couple of thrilling rides, I’m sure 2011 is the year many of us will be jumping onboard Awolnation.

Words: Matilda Winoy

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1 Comment

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