From the opening bars of “The Petrified Forest” the anxiety that permeates Wild Knights is palpable. Rapid heartbeat bass, ominous synthesizer, a punch and a whisper; Aqueduct sings “I’m gonna run through the jungle with my head in a bag.” The story of an artist, succumbed to his own stresses, fractured by self-isolation and mental anguish – the battle against his own Wild Knights has begun…
It’s been 8 long years since the man known as Aqueduct has released a full length record and it’s about damn time.
Founded in Tulsa, OK as the solo recording project of pop-mastermind David Terry, Aqueduct rose to prominence after a relocation to the Pacific Northwest. An album deal with Seattle indie label Barsuk and a series of infectious bedroom-rock records followed: Pistols at Dawn EP (2004), I Sold Gold (2005), and Or Give Me Death (2007).
During this era Aqueduct restlessly toured the US, sharing the stage with some of his favorite artists (The Flaming Lips, Apples in Stereo, Modest Mouse), performing at major festivals (Bumbershoot, Sasquatch, Lollapalooza), and even flashed across TV sets on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Carson Daly Show. His music was featured in numerous movies, TV shows, and commercials, including “The O.C.”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and pretty much every MTV reality show of the mid-aughts.
Then, suddenly, our hero seemingly rode off into the sunset.
“I’ve found through some pretty intense reflection, that my songs come from way down,” says Terry, “often inspired by some subconscious brewing rather than purposeful effort. At times I’m at a loss for their meaning, but I know when it feels right. Yet there comes a point where I can look back at a song and know exactly what I meant, in a prophetic sense”. To that point, this new album from Aqueduct took as long as it needed to take; his creative voice stronger and more dynamic than ever.
Wild Knights is both the sonic diary of one man’s emotional journey and a return to form. A monster of a record, the first half is mired in chaos, self-destruction and paranoia: the synthesizer sounds the antagonist; the mood is heavy, at times reveling in delusion. The joyous “Simpleanimal” owns the anxiety, while Terry is metaphorically imprisoned by his foe in “Legend of Kage” and at the bottom of a bottle by “Falling Down”.
It’s darkest before the dawn, and as we start side B we’re comforted by rounder and smoother tones, calming and complementary to the more positive, uplifting lyrical themes. “Drop It…sometimes life seems so unfair/for the good times lay in wait.” With “The Ballad of Barbarella” Wild Knights turns a corner, giving us a fresh start and a fresh sound. Our protagonist has emerged from the darkness a changed man, full of power, no longer stressed out and agonizing over the past.
Working in his home studio in Seattle, Terry began crafting the songs that would become his fourth Aqueduct LP. “Odd as it sounds for a solo recording artist, I really needed help during the process of envisioning these songs” says Terry. “An external source of input and support, friends could get an idea moving, then I’d shoo them away and tinker.” The bulk of the writing done, Aqueduct headed to the Echo Lab in Denton, TX and reconnected with drummer / engineer Matt Pence (Centromatic) to put the finishing touches on what is undoubtedly the best sounding Aqueduct record yet.
Wild Knights takes us on a journey through the darkness of self-doubt, obsession, and the struggle of self-actualization, our champion eventually pulling an emotional sword from a heart of stone, only to find it still beating after all. It might not be a storybook, ever-after ending, but there’s always chapter two…