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House - Released October 6, 2008 | Circus company
The title and cover art may seem quirky but it's for a purpose -- for Open Wide, Dave Aju recorded all sounds and tones using his own vocals, in addition to his own singing. The results are an often wonderful fusion of experimentation and immediacy. While the origins of the recordings may seem avant-garde, if anything Open Wide aims directly at a line of descent from classic electro and '80s R&B, with the intention of getting you to dance rather than to nod sagely. Starting with the squirrelly, playful bounce of "Roundabout," part quirk glitch and part woozy house, with Aju's low chants a great way to get into the feel of the album, Open Wide shimmers from the beginning. "First Love" lets him do the loverman shtick over a low-key pulse that sounds more than a little like prime Luomo, but the focus ends up more on his wry overall performance, helping showcase his ability with arrangements much like the title track does later on. Rather than sticking to one definite mood, Aju happily hops all over the place, with the winsome art-pop feeling of "Crazy Place" following hot on the heels of the stop-start funk of "Bump" ("Crazy Place" reappears at the end of the album in a Luciano remix). There's also so much good humor throughout that it's hard to pick moments -- but the stentorian voice saying "Well Mr. DJ, there IS no guest list tonight!" that starts "Anyway" is a treat, while calling a track "Tapatio" is a sign of knowing just what is needed for a good taco sometimes, which makes sense for a native of the Bay Area like Aju. ~ Ned Raggett
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