On May 19th, 2020, A. G. Cook, both the head of PC Music as well as Charli XCX’s creative director, performed an “acoustic EDM” set for Porter Robinson’s Secret Sky festival. Cook started his performance strumming an acoustic guitar, singing in a falsetto croon that sounded more like the work of a long-lost Kinsella brother (with a hint of William Corgan) than the relentlessly experimental pop he’s famous for. Before long, he was remixing his Caroline Polachek remixes, but for a moment, we saw a glimpse of an unfamiliar A. G. Cook.
In a lot of ways, this short set at Secret Sky functioned as an appetizer for Cook’s first full-length outing under his own name, offering a glimpse at new sounds while still showcasing his gift for avant-pop that is equal parts unsettling and captivating. 7G is a staggering seven-disc digital box set, each disc focusing on a specific instrumentation. Each track on A. G. Drums, for example, sports a percussion-heavy front end with a blissed out ending. It’s a series of rollercoaster genre experiments, a shock of ice water for those who might be mostly familiar with Cook’s more accessible work. The gentleness present in much of Cook’s best work is more present on the next disc, A. G. Guitar, on which he revisits the songs from his Secret Sky set (the Owen-esque “Being Harsh,” and an acoustic version of his 2016 single “Superstar”). In the first of the many covers on the set, Cook transforms Blur’s “Beetlebum” into a Nirvana b-side, complete with Cobain vocal affectations. The love for early ‘00s pop that permeates much of Cook’s work made his fondness for music with an uncool amount of intensity clear, so it’s not entirely surprising that he’s started to add emo, brit-pop, and grunge to his ever expanding palette. Cook is at his most ominous on A. G. Supersaw, using the waveform for a variety of sinister carnival sounds, all draped in fuzz, while A. G. Piano finds Cook doing his best Nobuo Uematsu. A. G. Nord is maybe the most diverse of all the discs, with Cook’s hymnal take on Taylor Swift’s “The Best Day” butting up next to the digital dissonance of “Triptych Demon.” The last two discs, A. G. Spoken Word and A. G. Extreme Vocals offer some of the most intense moments of the whole set, between the unsettling urgent whispering of “No Yeah,” the demonic howls of “Hold On,” and the absolutely belted out private-room-karaoke-take on Sia’s “Chandelier.”
7G is a sprawling achievement, that serves as both as an encapsulation of Cook’s work to date, and where he might be going in the future. It’s a testament to Cook’s skill that none of the 49 tracks feel like filler, but instead offer discrete visions into what pop music can and could be.