Album Review: Lord RAJA – “Para”

Lord RAJA’s sophomore album Para has officially been released online for free today courtesy of Adult Swim/Ghostly International, and you can download it for yourself right here. What follows are some of my thoughts on the album.


 

 

Para, the second album from experimental IDM/ambient producer Lord RAJA, expands on the solid musical foundation laid down on his first major release, A Constant Moth. The opening track “Stars” lets you know what you’re in for: airy ambient synths mixed with glitchy electronics and spastic drums throughout. The song as a whole evokes vibes and imagery that feel reminiscent of what might play during Adult Swim’s Toonami programming block, especially in the drum beats. Many more of the songs on this release have a feeling of complete weightlessness to them, as if you’re floating through the vacuum of space all alone, complimented with garbled atonal synths that generally don’t carry much melody but still offer very interesting soundscapes. “H3000” encompasses these spacey feelings as well, with constant steam hisses that feel like being alone on a large derelict space craft.

One of the more notable highs of the album is its great use of percussive elements to expand the feelings of many tracks. “Butterfly On A Jet” mixes in both wind chimes and bongo/conga drums to flesh out the ambient spacey vibes with more exotic musical flavors. “Shook” and “Stoked Tourist” also experiment with these types of sounds, and “Shook” in particular relies on this most of all, with percussion that sounds distinctly Japanese in tone. Apart from the distinct samples, the beats throughout are the usual rattling off-kilter types you would find in most IDM material.

While it primarily relies on glitch and ambience, the atmosphere on Para takes on other moods as well. The track “Renaissance Endo” ventures away from spacey vibes to something more aquatic in nature, as does the song “Ride Out” which features the vocoder-laden voice of RAJA himself, and “Stoked Tourist” deviates most of all from the atonal synths and songwriting to create what feels like a straight-up R&B tune, with melodic synths/bass and soulful reverb-heavy singing throughout; “Broken Computer” also contains a similar style of vocals to it. The voice samples work quite well in their respective songs, including “Shook”, whose drowned-out voice samples feel very close to MC Ride from the group Death Grips.

If there’s any problem to be had, it’s that some of the songs, for all their experimentation, feel a little bit underwritten. There’s much experimentation and unique soundscapes to be found, but some songs feel like they don’t really flow or build up to anything. “Flying Towards The Ground” and “Invst” feel like there’s a piece or two that’s missing from the overall track, though admittingly it’s not a big problem. Para is a solid sophomore effort that succeeds at advancing Lord RAJA’s distinct style, and I look forward to seeing what he does in the future. Let us know what you think of the album down in the comments below.

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