Lord RAJA Para
Chester Raj Anand's latest long-player is an adventurous, dazzling and ultimately gratifying work.
There’s a striking consistency running through Para, Chester Raj Anand’s follow-up his 2014 debut album, A Constant Moth. Sure, consistency may not normally be thought of as a particularly noteworthy attribute for an album—but when a producer is tossing as many ideas around as Anand is capable of, it’s worth mentioning. Better known to fans of aural experimentalism as Lord RAJA, Anand’s latest doesn’t have a structural theme, exactly. There isn’t an easy rhythmic flow from track to track, nor is there meant to be—the buckled, occasionally glitchy and roughhewn nature of the beats don’t often follow the path of least resistance. Instead, the album’s cohesiveness stems from an overarching aura, one that’s almost always dreamlike and celestial. Synths are sometimes reminiscent of a cavernous cathedral’s pipe organ, but as heard at a distance; other times, they glide with a light hum of distortion. But whatever the specific tones used, all the tracks here seem of a piece, with nothing out of place.
Anand is adept at getting a track’s point across succinctly, as evidenced here by their generally brief running time: Most of Para’s cuts are well under four minutes, with a few clocking in at less than two. But rather than coming off as sketches, they’re fully-formed entities, brimming with thoughtfulness. Take opener “Stars,” for instance: Grandly melancholic chords give way to near-abstract drum & bass percussion, interspersed with ambient interludes and heavenly melodies, with a touch of Omni Trio–style vocal sampling thrown in for good measure. It’s both soothing and little bit disquieting, a balancing act that Para pulls off regularly. “Zerulean” weds its slinky beats—hand percussion and toms lurking under bursts of sandpaper snare—to bursts of trumpeting synths, while “Broken Computer” layers its fractured rhythm and odd bursts of jazzy bass under reassuring keys and more well-placed vocal snippets.
Elsewhere, “Flying Towards The Ground” is Detroit techno as reimagined for an actual postindustrial apocalypse, rather than the (slightly) metaphorical one of the Motor City in the ’80s. Despite the potentially foreboding vibe, it’s a gorgeous and immersive track, as is “H3000,” with its introspective tunefulness nestling under blankets of warm hiss, and “Sheep,” which comes off as a deep-house track that’s been subjected to a bit of interdimensional corrosion. The unifying factor? It’s Para’s evocative beauty, a underlying glimmer that flows from the album’s sumptuous opening chords to its final spectral fade.