24 December 2022 (released)
12 January 2022
In modern times, there has never been an era like the mid-60s to the mid-70s for music that taps into the essence of human consciousness. An entire cultural movement devoted to finding out what these human vessels are capable of beyond eating, breathing, and propagating the species. With all the advancements in technology, the ability to trip out the listener has become exponentially more vast. Yet, when music seeks to conjure these advanced states, one is often reintroduced to the potent concoction of sounds that emerged in the decade following 'Tomorrow Never Knows'.
New Jersey artist Aura Blaze harnesses these mind-bending textures to great effect. The Escher-like meandering guitar lines and hazy organ of the late 60s psych-out bands mixed with the grandiose orchestration and story-telling cadence of 70s prog. This combination creates a modern psychedelia that eschews the garage and drone influences that rule most psych bands of today. Aura Blaze is loftier and more refined with complex orchestrations based on broadly evolving movements. 2019 LP The Sparkling Black showcases the project's multi-instrumental maestro Rhode Rachel's incredible versatility and imaginative composition. A track like the eclectic opener 'Overture: Solar Emerge' demonstrates a McCartney level of songwriting prowess. On Open-Mindedness, Rachel takes his classic influences and punches them up with some modern production for a vibe that is consistent with the likes of Tame Impala or GUM. The album is based on the precepts of introspective meditation and the exploration of elevated psychedelic states. Originally meant for a summer release, the album glows with a warm-weather sheen.
Strong orchestral synths and percolating vocal samples open the album giving it a Pink Floyd quality. Rachel croons through the title track with a poppy cynical optimism. ELO-inspired string breaks bridge sections, cascades of serotonin-firing keys raise the second verse as the artist preaches an ode to broad-minded thinking. 'The Summer Solstice' begins with the raised stakes of crescendoing strings but soon finds its mellow groove when hitting the 60s time-machine hook. Big airy vocal harmonies, jangly guitar, spaced-out organ, and joyful tambourine are a formula lovingly lifted from The Byrds and their ilk. If only this song were inaugurating a 2022 Summer of Love... 'The Only One I Know' rounds out this brief yet sprawling EP with a punchy, groovy, Deep Purple-inspired jam. The funky bass toys with the coquettish organ as Rachel's vocals come crashing in with a mythological swell of sound. A verbed-out choir of celestial vocals is spliced with freak-out guitar and builds to a mind-smashing climax.
Aura Blaze is coming out ahead of the pack in terms of harnessing music's Golden Era and finding a new context for it in 2022. Masterful orchestration, undeniably catchy hooks, and a dreamy demeanour make this EP a benchmark for psychedelic indie rock.