The Ah is the project of the drummer Jeremy Gustin, known also for his work with acts as David Byrne, Larkin Grimm, Marc Ribot, and Albert Hammond Jr. Two years after Common Bliss, he announced the release of the sophomore album. Mere Husk is out on January 31st via NNA Tapes. “Watermelon Tears” is the first excerpt. Listen below.
The Ah’s new album Mere Husk, the follow-up to 2017’s Common Bliss, sees Gustin once again crafting animal noises, water sounds, miscellaneous found audio, and his own playing into a harmonic language that straddles the line between his love of pop songcraft and his equally strong attraction to the abstract. Rather than employ gurgling fish tank bubbles and dolphin calls for their ambient properties alone, for example, Gustin bends them beyond recognition so that they mimic synths or serve the role of instrumental parts in an arrangement that falls together like a classic “song” — whether Gustin includes vocals or not. “I love songs and melody,” says Gustin. “As much as I like unusual stuff, I’m a song guy at heart.”
Gustin’s longtime passion for photography gives us a window into The Ah’s animated sonic universe. Whether he is out touring or just walking home from the grocery store, his eye is constantly drawn to the interplay of color, texture, and shape calling out to him from surfaces the rest of us might pass by without so much as a glance. A typical Gustin photograph captures what he refers to as “Foundscapes”: for example, multiple layers of posters on a Tribeca wall stripped and frayed to form an unintended collage; chipping paint rendered in such three-dimensional detail that it seems to invite your fingers to run across its contours; delicate veins of copper rust slowly eroding on a dented expanse of bright blue.
In several respects, The Ah is Gustin’s musical answer to his visual Foundscapes. “When I’m writing music,” he explains, “I look at it as something akin to archeology. It’s not like ‘This specific thing happened to me so I want the music to sound a specific way.’ It’s more like I’m chiseling away until a shape emerges and it starts to seem like music. In a way, I let the music create itself. I don’t even see it as I’m creating so much as I’m just finding things. These materials are all around us all the time.”
As intuitive as Gustin’s process may be, Mere Husk expands dramatically on the vision introduced with Common Bliss. Though twirling from playful to solemn and back again, Gustin’s music is as easy to take in as watching the myriad shades of colorful marine life swimming through an aquarium.