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Ajja - Spira Mirabilis [TIP Records]


antic604
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How would you rate this release?  

9 members have voted

  1. 1. How would you rate this release?

    • 5/5 - a future classic, a must have for everybody
    • 4/5 - very good, a must have for fans of sub-genre
    • 3/5 - good, typical release for the sub-genre
    • 2/5 - poor, uneven, let down by technical issues
      0
    • 1/5 - avoid at all cost
      0


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Track list:

1. Prolegomenon
2. Bubble Drum
3. Arabian Lights
4. Extraordinarium
5. Ripples in Blue
6. Anima Mundi
7. Entangled
8. Spira Mirabilis
9. Stage Left

Review:

Looking at Ajja S. F. Leu’s release history under his ‘Ajja’ moniker, one could easily be fooled into expecting this new album to be a high-tempo, banging and atonal screech-fest like “Psychogenica” and “Tulpa” released in 2007 and 2012 respectively were before it. However, there’s much more to the guy: his early musical experiences were forged playing guitar in various rock and funk bands, while he also followed his family and worked as a tattoo artist. In early noughties, with his friends Master Margherita, Flooting Grooves and Dymons he created and then managed a label: Peak Records, which was known for its quirky and diverse music catalogue: from trippy band-like ambient (Peaking Goddess Collective, Peak… V/A’s), through mid-tempo proggy stuff (Flooting Grooves, Tangri) to relentless, night-time and driving floor-fillers (Electrypnose, Yab Yum, Ajja).

Knowing the above, it’s becoming obvious how “Spira Mirabilis” came to be. The template is quite straightforward: take guitar noodling, some violins, pianos and flutes, ethereal voices; mix that with soothing, gentle acid lines and add a lots of sound mangling and glitch effects. In some tracks Ajja plays with the pace, starting from half-tempo and going to full-on later on, while others are firmly rooted in either of the opposite ends. But while the recipe sounds “easy”, it’s in how those components are mixed and matched together and here it’s pretty obvious that Ajja is a skilled and experienced musician, able to tell a complex story with the sound – taking the listener through ups and downs, effortlessly leading him from quieter and lush parts into more energetic, vibrant ones. Seasoned psytrancers will hear a lot of similarities to PGC’s “Organika” and Ajja & Cosmosis’ “The Alien Jams”, but the biggest surprise for me was how much it resembled of Shpongle’s “Museum of Consciousness”. Like that album, it’s also very soothing, gentle and un-aggressive, despite very often running at over 140BPM and being full of acid lines. There’s a lot of space, reverbs and contrasting elements that “smooth out” the overall sound, like e.g. the long, stretched-out, melancholic strings that enter in the opening track and few others later on as soon as they switch the tempo up. There’s also a lot of Shpongliness – which I mean as a compliment and not a critique! – in small sound effects and sequences, dreamy voice samples and above all in the deceiving simplicity of it all: it’s never flashy trying to mask lack of musical ideas with clever sound-design or technical tricks. It just confidently and effortlessly IS a very good music, expressed through the means of psychedelic trance.

What elevates it above many contemporary releases is the mastering, done by the legendary Kevin Metcalfe (he worked with David Bowie, The Who, The Police, Paul McCartney, Queen, Depeche Mode, Shpongle… the list goes on). It is noticeably quieter, but much more spacious, breathing and warm, letting all the detail to come through without overly emphasizing any particular frequency band. As a result, it's equally pleasing and balanced while playing silently or loudly.

I’m so happy that album like this exists and – looking at Psyshop and Beatport charts – is doing really well! Artists shouldn’t be afraid to experiment, to express their musical ideas and personality. In time where most of them are doing their damnedest to cater to very specific, narrow-tasted audience, Ajja does the opposite and is boldly straddling the (fairly) uncharted space between instrumental chill/downtempo and night-time electronic music, mixing the two to a great effect. Maybe it’s not perfect (I still cringe at the slap bass samples, because they sound like General MIDI patches or the electric feedback hum in last track), but it’s so very refreshing and non-conformist that it’s difficult to be indifferent to it. And I personally love it!

5/5

 

Full album to stream on TIP Record's YT channel:

 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLLF_JLOo4y5mFlDzbXVwzXb8FAnQbuJIr

 

Purchase here:

https://tiprecords1.bandcamp.com/album/spira-mirabilis

https://www.psyshop.com/shop/CDs/tip/tip1cd820.html
http://www.beatspace.com/10074/Tip+Records/AJJA/Spira+Mirabilis+/detail.aspx
 

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  • 3 months later...

Talent wise this guy is at the top of the psytrance scene. It is hard to believe the same person produced Tulpa (which I liked too but the sound is nothing alike). Very beautiful album (some Shponglesque sequences) that some may find a bit monotonous though.

 

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