Recording a second album means, first and foremost, doing one's utmost to carry it off. Not thinking about it too much even though a lot of that is involved is no mean feat. Working on the follow-up to a staggering miracle of a debut (it went double platinum), writing a whole new story required both unwavering determination and a truly carefree attitude. AaRON are a strange band. That is, an unusual duo who make an extended magic act of their magnetic partnership. Simon and Olivier. They are two, and sometimes one and the same. Their sound is mostly unique. Similar in the way they are attracted to danger and creation. Dissimilar in the way they harness this dizziness. Twins who can't resist the temptation of existing mainly through the beauty of feelings. We're dealing with romantics here, you see...
"Birds in the Storm", AaRON's new album, is required listening for anyone who wants to understand how Viscontian this band is. Because here, everything revolves around lights, atmospheres, arrangements and a particular obsession with achieving the perfect decor and staging for each of their songs. Handsomely, Simon Buret is like an abrasive hero who commits to his songs like others commit to God, and is forever impatient. Elegantly, Olivier Coursier channels the bewitching shadow of Simon's feverish passion. One runs, the other doesn't always. They locked themselves away at home to record these new songs. Not because they wanted to cut themselves off, but because they needed to approach it like craftsmen rather than hyperprofessionals, which is what success should have naturally led them to become. AaRON is synonymous with the mastery of time and what is commonly called freedom. Free speech, free composition, free form.
And so goes AaRON's second album, bearing the stigmata of miracles, while trying to weather the storm and find a reason to continue believing in miracles. That is probably why this record sounds like a first album all over again. Because it carries no trace of mechanical composition, no hint of a compromise. Compact, direct and spontaneous, yet based on chill-inducing sensations that are both extreme and antagonistic. Success is a strange rite of passage, and it led AaRON through a wilderness of desires, fraught with the greatest delights and the most ludicrous tragedies. Life really. With its constant highs and lows, making you dizzy and giving you the urge to live the most earthly of pleasures to the full. And that is actually what the album is all about: a dazzling Eden-like sun mixed with a sudden, deadly storm.
"Birds in the Storm". Is there anything more beautiful than metaphorical birds navigating their way through a storm, managing to fly against the most furious of headwinds? AaRON's songs map out a very private picture of the band's life. Like a fixed impression of precise moments. Ten snapshots, oscillating between bliss and petites morts. Olivier, a pop-song alchemist, and Simon, a tightrope-walker on a quest for earthly emotions, have done their utmost to write songs of flesh and bone. Blood, sweat and tears. Far from the ethereal and dandy-like image of a band of poseurs, AaRON come back to us with a cathartic, indispensable album. The opening song, "Ludlow", is an irresistible pop march written upon waking up in a sleepy New York, on a snowy day, in "Ludlow Street". The physical sensation of going from darkness to light in a matter of seconds is conveyed here by the military rhythm and weightless keyboard lines. Between the sky and the earth, there is also water, and it is the sensation of waves rolling inexorably that has produced "Rise", a song in perpetual motion, inspired by a sailing adventure off the coast of Sicily. Back to the night, which sometimes awakens the urge to revive luminous feelings.
With "Seeds of Gold", AaRON has crafted one of those incredibly physical songs, taking pop to levels of perfection it all but seldom reaches. The intense pleasure that sure-fire hits give, whipping up force 4 gales and pushing us out of ourselves, as we begin to believe that a single song can change the world, at least in our heads. A return to spirituality, which haunts this record from beginning to end. It was made under the influence of a deep-seated mysticism that has nothing to do with tokenism. Simon's voice plays a great part in this. Straightforward, free and soaring, often on the brink, it is the album's central instrument, with which all the arrangements have identified. A pagan voice, alternating between sexual and heavenly attraction, begging God like an African prayer for the dream of a possibly easier world to become a reality. "Waiting for the Wind to Come". As strange as it may seem, it is in the solitude of cotton fields that AaRON's blues may be heard.
AaRON's air is sometimes also destabilising. On "Inner Streets", it is as if Joy Division had suffered sunburn. Such tension makes it a primal scream, where even the pianos seem to have been thrown in turmoil. And then there are songs that command you to silence. To listen and say nothing. "Songs For Ever". A song to a lady, now gone but who haunts the album and, despite all the hurt and sadness, has passed on an unwavering will to live. Sometimes, strangely enough, the songs have points in common. "Arm Your Eyes", written for another absent friend is carried away by Simon's soothing voice. These are violent and passionate "Conversation Pieces", which bring us back to the flamboyant extremism of Visconti.
In the end, a song was needed that would, in itself, sum up the record's state of mind. "Birds in the Storm", a piece of dark and epic bravura, is to AaRON what "Violator" has been to Depeche Mode. A track that has been set free, designed like a geyser, and coupled with an iconoclastic approach to mixing. This song also points to Simon's desire to take people onto another, higher plane. The view from above is in fact what AaRON are striving for. As in "The Lame Souls": a satellite song like a nocturnal vision in which human beauty is suddenly perceptible only from on high. And the realisation, from up there, that all the imperfection in the world, all the things that are viscerally unhinged and dysfunctional are in fact the most beautiful. It is already time for the record to wind down, which it does by laying itself bare. With a song on the edge, created in the spirit of improvisation, to assert the fact that solitary battles between pain and bliss are just painfully universal facts of life. "A Thousand Wars". We all are a thousand wars. AaRON's new record is there precisely to win them all.