There’s feeling of a promise of temporary escape that runs rampant through the electronica genre, and Lord RAJA’s second album PARA. This theme is coupled with another: inclusion. He attempts to pair these two with heightened sense of trying, as if he’s willing himself to conjure good will toward any listener. RAJA attempts this by spreading his somewhat unique sound through inorganic, simplistic loops that are coupled with various voice and instrumental samplings. In turn, this creates a sedated, fugue-state for the listener that’s supposed to draw them in and make them feel welcome. However, what PARA does is sputter along, only sometimes showing gems with a true sense of transportation, leaving any idea of a warped electronic journey to seem forgotten and fall by the wayside.
With electronic music being so forgiving and wide spreading, it’s easy for Lord RAJA to draw from many sources of influences as he attempts to bring inclusion and escapism to life. Using ambient ideals, footwork motifs, and classic hip-hop samples RAJA strains to keep the listener engaged for the full album length. Instead, the tightly packed synths matched with fuzzed out bass lines make for an uncomfortable sense of paranoia. Which, in the right essence, could be the proper way to experience an album if it wasn’t so obvious that it’s true purpose was to find a self-identifying attribute and really draw everyone into his music. This delusional approach to a full-length album feels claustrophobic, as if listening to Lord RAJA were an act of self-enclosure, providing no glimpses of openness in its entire runtime.
While the beginning of the album starts to sound like a muddled, over-sampled mess — there are positive aspects across the album. However, they come and go in flashes as quick as the next sample bounces in. Drawing on heavy inspiration from another artist, he deploys a funky bass line with distorted synths and voice samples on his track “Broken Computer.” But despite this track’s abundant potential, it feels listless, unsure where to go and satisfied with its indiscernibility in terms of direction and tone.
This accidental exclusivity he creates continues throughout most of the album until his two better tracks, “Koi Fish” and “Shook.” Now, the former is his most haphazard mess but it falls ultimately in tune and creates his best complete electronic song yet on the album — unfortunately it’s the ninth track on the album. With “Koi Fish” Lord RAJA creates a fleshed out, consistent beat that feels wholly his own. While it has easy potential to fade back into the listener’s mind as a simplistic electronica song, Lord RAJA comes through and throws in some complex snares and synths to prevent his now expected devolution into mediocre growth.
“Shook” represents the epitome of PARA; it toes the line between thumping party jam and challengingly sporadic hip-hop that the average listener would turn off after a minute. At the song’s core, the simplistic beats ring through all while an erratic mess of synths attack in a disarray of confusion. The funny part — this is the first time Lord RAJA steps out of his comfort zone and shows us a beat that stands against the rest, giving color to an otherwise daze of similarity. To go along with this disguised motif of an adventure, “Shook” feels like the challenging part of the trek. The ups and downs are ever-present, but it’s ultimately fulfilling to complete. It presents a different side of PARA that, had it been included throughout, would have yielded significantly greater results.
Disappointingly, as the album starts to show that true promise of inclusion and bring to life the duality it so yearned for, it ends. The last track on PARA brings what Lord RAJA had been teasing the whole time and delivers complete cohesion voice to his work. He lets his bass ring out a little longer and doesn’t make synth beats compete for attention. When it sounds like he isn’t trying to vie for that attention so hard, he finds his true footing. Lord RAJA’s production finally has a message that provides a clear, delineated path for the listener to experience his music in the proper way. But despite these moments of greatness, this album’s intoxicatingly ethereal highs are brought down by the lows of mindless electronica music, leaving the album’s best work to feel better suited as singles on RAJA’s SoundCloud page. PARA doesn’t tell a story of personal growth or inward intuition, instead it gives a tangible picture of a producer so wrapped up in this “pack it all in” mentality that he forgets what it means to create something coherently digestible and lasting.
– Eric N.