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ATP! Album Review: Black Books – Aquarena EP

Some bands make music, some bands play shows, some bands even make an EP in their first three years, but there is one thing that sets Black Books apart from most bands: strength. The Austin quintet’s release of their Aquarena – EP is nothing short of its awesome title. Black Books lure you in with their dark, ambient atmosphere and surprise you with strong vocals and well-composed melodies.

After close listening, Black Books managed to sneak in clever titles and subtle drums that give Aquarena its surprisingly strong sound that took me down a rabbit hole from which I didn’t want to return.

Aquarena is serene, simple as that. You wouldn’t have expected such a cold, ambient album to be created in the blazing heat of Texas.

The EP opens with ‘Favorite Place,’ which immediately sucks you in. I felt the sound comparable to Balance and Composure’s ‘Void.’ The ambient guitar along with the dark sounds from the keyboards give the group’s EP a strong introduction. Lead vocalist Ross Gilfillan is just the cherry on top. Not too flashy, not to mellow, Gilfillan successfully adds to the sound bringing the whole picture together.

If I had to describe this EP or Black Books to anyone, I would call them a cross between Bon Iver and Brand New (Deja Entendu-esqe to be exact). I use the words “atmosphere” and “ambient” a lot, but I mean it. I felt that Black Books made Aquarena a place. A place of peace and sound where the group’s emotions ran free, a place I didn’t want to escape.

My personal favorite part of the EP, which I thought was neat, was the song ‘Marfa.’ For many people Marfa, TX is just a city in the desert. Little known fact: Marfa, TX is actually home to ‘The Mystery Lights.’ An astronomical phenomenon where the stars appear as though they are dancing on Route 67 due to the reflection of light on the headlights. The group uses their atmospheric sound to take you to the Marfa desert and to a new world altogether in the song.

Aquarena has been one of the few releases that left me wanting more. I compare the EP to the finale of The Sopranos; it leaves you with a mundane question and slowly pans away. But with good vocals, smooth instruments, and an overall solid sound, I am nothing but excited for Black Books. After a great start with this release, I feel that Black Books can only go up to the Marfa sky from here.


Jordan Wyman

Aquarena is out now and can be purchased via Bandcamp.

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