AE’s debut album’s title track, “Small Hands,” is about an evolving relationship paralleling the creation of the song. “Small Hands” began as a poem that Akila and Elias passed back and forth after adding one line.
The song begins with its soundtrack playing. A piano plays before being joined by drums. When AE begins singing, the drumbeat sometimes falls at the end of each syllable, enunciating them and eliciting a broken, speech-like singing. Throughout the song, both Akila and Elias sing together, which is the first and only time they’ve done so.
The soundtrack and singing give the song a fast pace, overwhelming the listener. There is so much going on, but it isn’t too much. It’s not overwhelming in a bad way. Each layer (soundtrack, lyrics, and vocals) combines together, creating a beautiful song. There’s so much richness to grasp from it, whether it’s the captivating vocals, the soundtrack, or the elusive lyrics.
I couldn’t ever seem to catch the lyrics. I’d get a word or phrase here or there. I feel like this was mainly due to the structure of the lyrics. They were shorter, with metaphors and imagery that reminded me of poems, highlighting the nature of the origin of the song. Like in poems, I feel like the imagery gives a deeper, more complex meaning to what you read or hear, in this case. For that reason, I had to listen multiple times to try and grasp the story AE was telling.
In the chorus, AE is joined by voices coming in as echoes and harmonies. Then, the second time the chorus is sung, it is slower and quieter, giving the song a more subdued vibe.
“Small Hands” ends with AE singing in a high, soft voice as the soundtrack dies down, evoking a sense of safety and calmness.
AE is a Berlin-based impure pop duo: Indonesian vocalist/producer Akila and Bolivian-Danish vocalist/instrumentalist Elias. Using their music to explore and embrace all parts of themselves, AE often uses love as a metaphor. Their music examines their struggle with identity, specifically with queerness, gender, and post-colonialism. Of their music, they say, “we like to explore the dualities we face as aliens in both our native countries and in our home Berlin.” They hope that their music can be a “space of comfort” for others with similar struggles who can relate to their music.
AE’s first single, “Mind Back,” was released in 2021. Their debut album, Small Hands, was released on the first of April.
Written by Anne Friedman