As trippy as Quinton Barnes’ AARUPA is for listeners, the most important journey is the musical- and self-discovery trip that Barnes took in its creation.

The other night, I took an edible, turned out the lights, and let Toronto’s Quinton Barnes take the wheel. If I hadn’t already been familiar with Barnes’ experimental bedroom-soul album AARUPA, I might have assumed that the funky manipulation of sound and style was THC-induced. But Barnes is an adventurous songwriter and producer who motors through intersections of popular genres and experimental performance where less bold artists would come to a full-stop. He possesses a kind of musical fearlessness that drives him to put out AARUPA Remixes, “an energetic collection” of remixes less than a month after its March 2020 release.

Title track “AARUPA” is an engine-revving mash of slow-burning beats and pitch-shifting vocals. On the surface, the left-field experimentalism of “AARUPA” doesn’t feel like it’s in the same lane as the soulful bump and grind of “HE”, but Barnes is a musical chameleon: the outward hues and tones may change, but at its core, his music is blazing its own path. “THIS MOMENT”, a duet with fellow Torontonian singer-producer Xtina Jewell, is tender (“The song that you like, gonna put it on repeat / I’ll sing you to sleep, I’ll sing you to sleep”) where “TRU VBVA” is tough (“I stuck my neck out for you, you swore you had my back / I went the distance for you, now I’m under attack / How the fuck you gon lie on me? Kinda wish you had died on me”). 

“FEMMEDOMME” starts with gothic, almost industrial overtones before breaking into hallucinogenic electronic pops of light and colour. On “NONBINARY”, AARUPA’s unabashed highlight, Barnes sings of “searching all my life and I’ve come up with nothing / So imagine my surprise when love offered me something / I can’t internalize the things that don’t mean nothing.” Again, on the surface, it sounds like a love song, but look deeper within its textures and sub-text, and you find a revelatory reclamation of one’s self: a song about loving who you are and honouring your worth when you think no one else does. It’s in AARUPA’s final, genre-fluid moments that you realize that, as trippy as listening to Quinton Barnes’ beautiful record is for listeners, the most important journey is the musical and self-discovery trip that Barnes took in its creation.

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