Adrian Aardvark | Letdown
Disappointment, try to postpone it
But it is inevitable
Expectations too high
Thought I was going be more careful
These hopes won’t manifest
Just left with guilt and regret
I’ll blame me and you can blame you
This is so depressing
I will let you down
You will let me down
It doesn’t have to be this way
Confidence in your decisions
Can it even be that simple
Try your best and be brave
Can’t you act intelligible
Working hard for something real
Something worthy something lasting
Something that you will fight for
Something to keep you living
I won’t let you down
You won’t let me down
Above is a track called Letdown from the new Adrian Aardvark EP titled Bones Positive. Adrian Aardvark is the pet project of Chris Rigsbee and he has been playing under the AA moniker for a little over a decade now. Over the years, Chris has been on numerous small tours up and down the east coast and has managed to construct a discography so enormous and vast that I’m not even sure he even knows how many songs he’s given birth to. I’ve known Chris and followed his music for close to 8 years now and there are still songs and b-sides I know I haven’t even heard. Just when I think I’ve collected every possible take of every possible song, I’ll be driving somewhere and Sean or Matt will pull out a CDR that was probably burned at 4x speed back in 2005 and be like “Yea, but have you heard this take?” Chris’ songs are a lot like insects: they all have tiny little lives of their own and chances are if you see one, there are 100 other versions of it you don’t know about.
But that’s really both the charm and challenge of getting into Adrian Aardvark. Chris’ art is amorphous. There are so many different version of the project and so many different songs and so many different takes of songs on so many different albums that just visiting his bandcamp page can psyche out the average listener much like how I would look at a mountain and be like “I’m not climbing that fucking thing, are you serious?” But that’s really not how Adrian Aardvark should be approached. You’ve got to just rent a helicopter and dive-bomb into that shit. You may never reach the summit or you may reach the summit and never come down.
The point I’m trying to make is for every Adrian Aardvark song you’re not super down with, then there’s probably one you are. Same goes with his live performances.
The first time I heard about Adrian Aardvark was shortly after Chris had returned to Plattsburgh from some other exotic destination like Guam, Iceland or Providence, RI. I can’t remember. What I do remember is getting an invite to a show at the local Co-Op and AA was playing. I remember thinking the name was pretty dumb and I didn’t end up going for a variety of reasons I can’t quite recall. After that, I started hearing more about Chris through some mutual friends. My first memory of actually meeting him was when he showed up to a party at my apartment at like 2am with a 30-rack of beer. Chris quickly became “the guy who always shows up with more beer”.
Fast forward some months later to Chris and I actually playing our first show together at my friend Liz’s apartment. This was the first time I had ever seen Chris play and it was one of the most bizarre and entertaining experiences of my life. Here was this guy with glasses and a mop-top screaming like a possessed muppet and wailing on an electric guitar playing a 7 minute song about space or something. I don’t know, I just mostly remember the blood all over the guitar. It was so crazy and loud and raw and I was so, so into it. Chris ended up giving me a couple of his trademark CDR’s wrapped in construction paper and I took it home and popped it in and immediately turned it off. The recording was a lot of noise and chaos and I just wasn’t ready for that at that point in my life.
And I was really confused because here was a guy who totally blew me away live and now I’m listening to an album that’s supposed to be him but, I mean, this couldn’t really be him could it? But it was. Because, you see, there are many different Chris’ and many different Aardvark’s. There’s the psychedelic freak-out Aardvark shaking his cosmic booty up in the earth’s Stratosphere; there’s the black-out, I-want-to-fucking-die dark Aardvark; there’s the party all-night, party all-day keep jumpin’, never-gonna-die pop darling Aardvark; and there’s the shit-son-everything-is-gonna-be-okay Aardvark. I could go on and on. But I eventually found the recordings I loved and in time, I even came to appreciate what I didn’t love so much at first.
I’ve met a lot of musicians who have their musician-life and their personal life. Well Adrian Aardvark is totally Chris Rigsbee. There’s no divide there. When you’re watching Adrian Aardvark you’re watching the most honest, up-to-date version of Chris. The guy’s traveled to a lot of places, drank a lot of beers, met a lot of people and has had a lot of experiences. And every time he sings about once of these experiences, you can tell he’s back there. There are times when I’m playing that I can draw on past feelings and put them into the performance. But unless a song is new, there’s a lot of natural restraint. But when he plays, he bleeds and he doesn’t hold back because he can’t hold back. I’ve seen him play so fucking loud and so fucking hard that people had to leave the room. And you never knew if he was going to improv an entire song or just do a noise set. Chris is one of the most exciting performers because you literally never know what he’s going to do next and sometimes neither does he until the moment before he plays.
But that energy has to come from somewhere and it’s not limit-less. These songs take a lot out of him which in the past few years has led to lengthy breaks between performances. Adrian Aardvark has died and been reborn and died again countless times. Chris is always cocooning himself and transforming over and over again like an freaky immortal butterfly in tie-dye t-shirt and shorts and those blue sneakers that I don’t think he’s ever going to throw away.
But enough about the past. Bones Positive is a sequel of sorts to his previous album, Hidden Magic Revival which was released after two-year or so hiatus. As with Hidden Magic Revival, this EP features a full band playing acoustic guitar, electric guitar, violin, stand-up bass, cello, singing saw, drums and probably some other instruments I’m forgetting. Let me just put it this way—the dude loves layers.
Bones Positive is one of two releases (the first being American Aardvark) that documents the 7-8 months following the release of Hidden Magic Revival with the line-up of Dan Andersen, Shannon Stott, Catie Wurster, Chris Dalnodar, Sean Godreau and Justin Passino (that’s me). I left the band shortly after recording the EP and Chris left the band a few months ago when he moved to Philly. See what I mean? Constantly changing. But even though the line-up is always in flux, Chris remains at the heart of Adrian Aardvark. Strumming and stomping away like he always has.
But that’s not to say that Chris hasn’t evolved or changed. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of watching his song-writing grow and mature and I have to say this EP (much like American Aardvark and Hidden Magic Revival) is his strongest, most coherent and accessible release yet. If anyone was waiting for a starting point, it’s this EP. It’s short but it’s everything Chris really represents in his art which is basically that life fucking blows sometimes but there’s still beauty to be found. When he first played me the masters in his car, we jokingly dubbed it “posi-death”. But it’s true. Chris will make you laugh one second and break your heart the next. You’ve got to take the good with the bad because without the bad we wouldn’t truly appreciate the good. And yea everything is terrible and we’re all going to die but Chris has died like 6 times and he’s still managed to somehow keep his head up and keep going. I think we can manage that too.
I guess what I’m trying to say is Adrian Aardvark to me is all about constant movement and constant transformation. Take the hits but keep moving forward. And while this EP is just a small slice of the AA universe, it certainly has one of the prettier views. So stop and rest here for a bit but by all means don’t stop exploring. I know Chris won’t.
You can download Bones Positive and most of Chris’ past discography at his Bandcamp Page. FFO: Magnetic Fields, Broken Social Scene, short shorts, cookie monster, vodka drinks and cosmic farts.
Now who wants a popsicle?
The nicest thing anyone has ever said about my music/friendship/life. It is so hard to feel sane with the many ups and downs of life. Music and people who care to try to understand and listen are the things that keep me going.
Please listen to For the Kid in the Back if you haven’t already. Justin knows all about the deep deep darkness in every human and the hope to do better in this world for everyone and ourselves.