A.A. Bondy - Enderness - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

A.A. Bondy - Enderness

by Tim Sentz Rating:7 Release Date:2019-05-10
A.A. Bondy - Enderness
A.A. Bondy - Enderness

The world had just about given up on Auguste Arthur Bondy (A.A. Bondy). Bondy had released three under-appreciated folk records between 2007 and 2011, but since has kept a low-profile, with nary a single or tour since 2015. His last record, the subtle but lush Believers in 2011 felt like the singer-songwriter was on the cusp of indie stardom, but the glacial pace at getting the follow-up prepared felt like a stifling. But it’s 2019, and he’s returned with Enderness, his fourth record for Fat Possum.

The results after eight years find Bondy with a peculiar momentum, playing catch-up if you will. Enderness has sprinkles of fads that became prominent a few years ago, matched with his slow-building folk intertwined with minor synths. We’re now almost 3 years removed from Bon Iver’s landmark 22 A Million, which took folk into a new era of pieced together fragments. But Bondy continues to evolve, which is a good sign that he’s not being left in the dust.

Enderness brims with a subtlety that was missing on previous installments. He’s a bit more solemn this time around, a departure from Believers more rocking tendencies like opener “The Heart is Willing.” None of Enderness quite reaches that height, instead, Bondy keeps things more grounded in an airy, almost James Blake-like minimalism, like on “Fentanyl Freddy” the traditional acoustic guitars are placed with a synthy background noise, and Bondy approaches it all with a bare-bones autotuned falsetto. It’s not an overly drastic departure, but those expecting another folk album in the vein of When the Devil’s Loose or American Hearts. As with most artists, Bondy is attempting to push his sound further by picking up different instruments.

The spacey organ-drenched “Pan Tran” finds Bondy playing around with soundscapes for an all-instrumental break; It’s a strange inclusion so late in the album and one that feels unnecessary. The vocal manipulation on “Killers 3” and “Diamond Skull” does little to separate Bondy from his compatriots mimicking the same tactics. It’s a valiant effort to change one’s sound, and Bondy’s talent does shine through on these detours in aesthetic. He’s still a gifted songwriter, and Enderness feels like progress in certain areas.

The aforementioned “Diamond Skull” is a good use of both styles, even if it’s nothing new. In a time when other folk musicians like the Fleet Foxes are writing more of a progressive/experimental folk, it feels like Bondy just wants to find himself in the same boat as electronic musicians like Bibio or Lambchop. Talented songwriters who have carved out a niche for themselves but have who have arrived at this moment through countless risks.

In the end, Enderness is a sturdy, but flawed experiment. It approaches the direction a little too safe. Instead of plunging into the weird and experimental, Bondy just dips his toes in, and comes off as a James Blake understudy, but doesn’t have the courage to push the boundaries. It’s a welcome change for sure, and it’ll be interesting to see where he takes this, but as a first go-round, it lacks any real punch.

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