Ay Ay Ay barely puts a foot – or larynx – wrong.
Chris Power 2009
Emerging from the same fug of bleary hedonism and hip-thrusting innuendo inhabited by Matias Aguayo’s 2005 solo debut, Ay Ay Ay diverges tantalisingly from the expectations generated by 2008 singles Minimal and Walter Neff. In place of the techno-pop crossover they seemed to suggest was en route, Aguayo has instead delivered one of the most peculiar and enjoyable albums of 2009.
Throughout Ay Ay Ay Aguayo’s voice is the primary instrument, its multi-tracked layers of hazy delivery, sighs, moans, clicks, hums and beatboxing motifs conspiring to create a tapestry-like effect above purposefully rudimentary tribal house basslines and drum programming. The effect is one of opiate-like submersion, particularly on the sublime embarrassment of riches that is single Rollerskate, which piles hook upon hook like infectiousness is going out of fashion.
Irrepressibly catchy, Rollerskate forges a link between Ay Ay Ay and Aguayo’s 2008 output that the rest of the album, bravely or perversely according to your tastes, turns its back on. Those in the ‘perverse’ camp can cite Aguayo’s form in this department: Minimal, huge in the summer of last year, is a satirical takedown of a musical style – one with “no groove, no balls” – that his own early-00s work as Closer Musik (with Dirk Leyers) had done much to define.
While it seems certain that Chilean-born, Cologne-raised Aguayo could produce an album of polished underground pop if the mood took him – witness the aforementioned Rollerskate, Desde Rusia’s sing-along sleaze or the warm uplift of the Ladysmith Black Mambazo-channelling Koro Koro – he resists the urge to become the techno Bobby McFerrin, instead moulding Ay Ay Ay so that it forms a network of interconnected grooves; tripped-out head music bound together by the teeming instances of their main component: Aguayo’s own voice.
The sound-world created by this unconventional approach is extremely adaptable, and avoids ever feeling like a gimmick: the superb claustrophobic throb of the title track contrasts with the zephyr-like freshness of Koro Koro and the Brazilian forró-style crooning of closer Juanita, resulting in an album that imparts a real sense of emotional development throughout its course. Mucho Viento, unsurprisingly, doesn’t succeed in rehabilitating the penny whistle as a viable instrument, but otherwise Ay Ay Ay barely puts a foot – or larynx – wrong.