“I think my head could explode,” sings David Terry, the creative force behind indie synth pop act Aqueduct (on “Legend of Kage”). But there’s no panic or rage in his voice, more a solemn sense of acceptance. His words actually make for an apt description of Aqueduct’s music: twitchy, emotional, weirdo pop that feels ever combustible. Eight years since the last proper Aqueduct album, Terry returns with Wild Knights, a collection of spastic tunes that tap into his animalistic instincts while he sorts out life and unsuccessful human interaction.
Aqueduct finds dealing with one’s past to be a messy affair on Wild Knights. At the album’s onset, the situation presents Terry as a confused animal who’s “gonna run through the jungle with my head in a bag” while desperately “trying to never catch you” (“The Petrified Forest”). He craves relief from the burdens of interconnection, but deep down would really rather duck away from any confrontation that could lead to resolution. Sure, he may boast (somewhat redundantly) about “burning my most favorite photo of us” on “Past the Point” and feign animalistic aggression on “Paranoid Much?,” but even then he concedes “I’d probably be fine if left alone.” The lyrical undercurrent hints at dreams of evolving into a beast that doesn’t get so emotionally wrecked by relations, but he ends up realizing that these thoughts which "used to keep me up like every night,” well, he just “can't think about it, think about it, now" (“Simpleanimal”). The aches are natural, and adapting to accept them is the only recourse.
The musical core of Wild Knight’s songs remains Terry’s oddball knack for contrast catchy synth leads with acoustic piano parts. The dynamic allows the gleefully scattershot arrangements to still feel intimately personal and grants the synthetic sounds a natural emotionalism. While Terry crafts each tune, the other players (Matthew Nader, Andy Fitts, Matt Pence, and Kimo Muraki) that fill out the sonic space with extra guitars, bass, drums, and assorted wind instruments bring a tight precision to untamed proceedings. The moments of least emotional connection actually come when the musical tone tries to match downtrodden lyrics on songs like “Young Guns II” and “Falling Down,” but even the latter has interesting moments thanks to haunting theremin wails (or at least pseudo-theremin wails, since none is credited).
Eight years is a long time to mull over your feelings, and it’s clear that David Terry channeled them all into Aqueduct. Wild Knights serves as a fitting expression of that self-reflection. It finds someone growing up in a very adult sense, but still presents each thought with a childlike love of sonic adventure.