Photo by Collective Dublin
By Clare Martin
How many gaff parties have we missed out on in the last year? The good ones, the mediocre ones, the ones that you half forget about until a mate brings them up months later? I miss all of them, even the shite parties. We were together, and that’s what mattered.
The new EP Class Exercises by Aoife McCann, better known as AE Mak, serves as a tribute to the house-parties-that-never-were, thanks to the pandemic. Despite usually performing solo, McCann’s sound has always possessed a communal spirit. Her singular vocals and playful art-pop beats feel like a call-to-prayer for every weirdo music kid. She manages to reach that core part of you that wants to dance, sing, and express yourself in any way possible.
The previously released single “Jamie” starts us out with some daytime pop, the type of song you’d put on while walking around town so you can feel yourself. McCann establishes herself as an adept, engaging producer on the track. The entire EP is self-produced, thanks to a month-long Ableton course the Dundalk artist took with She Knows Tech. “Never had I self-produced before last summer so this is a new freedom,” McCann says of her newfound skill, and on “Jamie” you get that sense of sonic exploration. She uses her own voice as a percussive instrument, layering it with a throbbing beat and high, warbling synth. The bright, spacey track feels made for throwing your head back to feel the sun on your face.
“New Friend” is the EP’s showstopper. Heavily distorted, buzzing synth hypnotically draws you into the song and is eventually joined by clanging percussion, giving a slightly industrial edge to her sound. Muffled snippets of conversation are tucked into “New Friend,” evoking the sensation of eavesdropping at a party. McCann says the track is about a new relationship and “not being able to face the fear I have that comes with labelling my sexuality and bringing it into my everyday life, keeping it in this dark, sexy-manic dreamscape to explore in.” She certainly captures the feeling of throwing yourself completely into a mad night out to escape realities we’re not ready to handle yet.
The bacchanalian banger is made all the better by the trippy Mark Hogan-directed music video, which involves a clown and unsettling face-warping reminiscent of the mushroom-addled scenes in Midsommar. McCann and the crew were even stopped by the guards during filming. Shenanigans aside, “New Friend” will certainly be on my first post-pandemic party playlist.
Closer “Spacer” is comparatively subdued, but most songs would be next to “New Friend.” The plucky intro feels like watching the sun rise over the city after a long night out, tingeing everything with a warm golden haze. The track is an ode to being a carefree dreamer, as McCann declares, “And I was always a spacer in the right ways.” Of all the songs, this one feels the closest to classic AE Mak.
With Class Exercises, McCann takes the time to explore her own sound and personal experiences, to our collective benefit. AE Mak pushes herself on the EP, heralding the start of a stranger and even more wonderful era from the avant-garde pop artist.