Aero Flynn | 7th St. Entry | Friday, April 3
"I know that I couldn't have made this record three years ago," Josh Scott readily admits.
There's a tranquil sunset coming through windows of Bev's Wine Bar behind the Rochester native, who recently moved to northeast Minneapolis from Chicago. He's best known for his years shaping the rural rock movement in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, over a decade ago.
In the early aughts, Scott and his Amateur Love cohorts -- Brian Moen and brothers Brad and Phil Cook -- crafted the influential full-length It's All Aquatic. Their friend Justin Vernon loved the heady, guitar- and keys-laden indie rock album so much that he formed the Chigliak record label in part to press a reissue. Amateur Love was on the cusp, but Scott retreated from the scene due to a crippling battle with an autoimmune disease and untreated depression.
With a mixture of pride and envy, he watched bandmates and friends succeed. Brad and Phil formed Megafaun, Moen shaped several projects (Peter Wolf Crier, Laarks, Shouting Matches), and Vernon began the Bon Iver empire. All the while, Scott remained silent.
"Writing for myself became less and less enjoyable," he says. "I found myself listening to music far more than making music. Writing for no one caused me to really fall off and wonder what I was doing this for -- just writing to the walls."
He kept these bedroom musical sketches private for years. Until Aero Flynn.
The atmospheric electro-pop project immediately felt different because the songs came out of him packed with both substance and potential. "I finally just said yes, after years of never saying yes," he says.
The first song that he wrote is the plaintive lead-off track on Aero Flynn. Over the strains of an acoustic guitar, he delivers the tremulous lines that begin "Plates2": "I took your body home with me. I couldn't care less, but you cared for me."
"It really just wrote itself," he says. "And I immediately knew everywhere that I wanted to go with this."
During Scott's top-secret weeklong sessions at April Base studio in Eau Claire, Vernon provided guitars and keys -- as well as vocals Scott affectionately calls "prayer chants." Other collaborators included Adam Hurlburt, Sean Carey, Jake and Jeremy Hanson, Matt Sweeney, Ben Lester, Mike Noyce, Dave Power, Reggie Pace, and Josh's old Amateur Love bandmate Brian Moen.
The nine tracks strike a poignant balance between tentative first steps back and the moves of a seasoned musician. Emotions are delivered in a clandestine way, and song titles reveal little ("Dk/Pi," "Maker," "Brand New"). Scott often distorts his vocals to further mask the anguish of his recent physical and mental struggles. "I'm so afraid... of everybody else," he sings in "Tree," over an unruly electronic beat. Thought fragments akin to William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch cut-up writing technique echo in "Crisp," as Scott pleads hopefully, "Can I feel you?"
"I wanted this record to echo my headspace in the moments of the years prior," Scott says. "I wanted something that you had to struggle and push through, guttural feelings. The studio was my favorite place on earth during those moments.... It was a beautiful utopia of emotions, and there was a huge therapeutic element to that, and you can hear that in the music. The songs were my therapy. I realized that the happiest moments of my life were while I was making music."
The feeling of warmth and optimism coursing through the record is easy to latch on to. Scott's fragile vocals coupled with agitated polyrhythmic beats are reminiscent of In Rainbows-era Radiohead, as well as Thom Yorke's solo material. Slow-burning post-rock minimalism frays the haunted edges of "Floating." On "Tree," dynamic, free-jazz beats imbue the claustrophobic track with a unrelenting urgency. Spacey sonic experimentalism fills out the desolate piano strains of "Moonbeams," which evokes stargazing in the country on a warm summer night.
"I wanted to make something that was simultaneously not current, but not futuristic at all, and actually not in the past," explains Scott. "I wanted to make something that's going to not die tomorrow -- something that could have been made at any time. I just wanted to keep that balance alive."
Scott has assembled Hurlburt, Noyce, Lester, and Power for Aero Flynn's live performances. The healing process goes on for him, and Aero Flynn will play a major role in Scott's creative and personal transformation going forward.
Along with Aero Flynn's Friday release show at the Entry, Scott will tour with Brooklyn singer-songwriter Torres in May, and play the Vernon-curated Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival in July.
"There will be some really cool collaborations, and some really special moments," Scott says of Eaux Claires. "Essentially, you have Justin's entire friendship circle assembled in the woods of Wisconsin. It's going to be a great time, and it's going to draw a lot of water for that community."
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