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Album Review

The hypnotic loops that introduce Ballast serve a couple purposes. Besides being a nice "welcome to the otherworldly world of Ballast" mood setter, the loops subtly lay the thin and fascinating electronica foundation of the album, one that's both barely there yet always there. Singer/songwriter Damon Aaron has a tasteful electronica history — having spent time with Divine Styler, Breakestra, and DJ Nobody — but he's an incredibly earthy and dreamy fellow who crosses a Nick Drake-style wandering with Keb Mo's warm approachability. It's safe to assume he's more a genuine songwriter than an exploratory knob twiddler, which makes Ballast all the more fascinating when the loops and soundscapes creep in. Aaron effortlessly delivers his deep and reflective lyrics accompanied by drums that lie just below the surface, background vocals that take two listens to catch, multiple layers of acoustic guitars, and the occasional naïve, quirky synth line. Brush off the quirk and Bonnie Raitt could steal one or two of these warm "soul-folk" tunes, as could Prince, or Low for that matter. As producer, Aaron's captured it all with a Boards of Canada attitude, adding quaint, loopy interludes and simple-but-effective samples. It creates the perfect tonic for heartless glitch, but Aaron is also keeping his eye on the whole affair, pacing the 11 tracks with a classic album flow. Strange rarely sounds this comfortable, and with songs that taste good today and ripen with time, Ballast is a bewitching debut.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Damon Aaron is a triple threat -- a singer/songwriter/producer -- but he's a perfectionist, too. That's part of the reason it took this "soul-folk" singer 14 years to finally issue his full-length debut. Another reason is that Aaron is much in demand as a sideman. Divine Styler, Breakestra, DJ Nobody, and I-Wolf have all employed him, but this electronica/alternative rap background doesn't give a hint of Aaron's acoustic side. Appearances on compilations like Dublab Presents: Freeways and Loosegroove's...
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Ballast, Damon Aaron
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