Album Review: The Darcys, “Aja” (Arts & Crafts)
So tightly crafted is Steely Dan’s 1977 masterwork, “Aja,” that the only ways for any artist to approach the material consist of recreating the thing with painstaking detail or launching a sledgehammer at its crystalline perfection and rebuilding it from memory. The first approach can be thrilling in a live tribute but utterly pointless on record, and fortunately The Darcys take the latter route on their haunting, front-to-back reassessment of “Aja.” The Canadian band takes this 35-year-old monument to obsessive-compulsive jazz-rock and sails the yacht-rock juggernaut into a fog bank, creating a beautiful dissonance that amplifies the album’s spooky interior world.
Stripped of the syncopated rhythm and bright horn charts that gave it such buoyancy, the Darcys paint “Black Cow” with harsh tones to match its lyrics about instability and infidelity, beginning the song with churchlike organs and ending with a thunderous crash of drums and wires. Singer-keyboardist Jason Couse delivers the title track with choirboy tones as the rest of the Darcys emphasize the song’s Eastern tonalities and expand on Steve Gadd’s iconic drum flurry from the original. The band segues into “Deacon Blues” with a Krautrock rhythm and cascades of warm background vocals, and then pounds forward with a chiming, anthemic reinvention of “Peg.”
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