MUSIC: East Meets West – Vajra Album Review ‘Pleroma’
Composer and keyboardist Annamaria Pinna’s “self-imposed exile” in India (touted widely by music bloggers catching on to her dark, melodic sound as Vajra‘s lead singer) was time well spent. Attaching shape and color to sound as someone living with synesthesia, Pinna began playing violin at six, flute at nine and later studied music theory at Juilliard. The daughter of a former monk and school teacher, Pinna created the alt-prog rock ensemble while abroad, intertwining East Indian themes and influences with experimental elements during her stay in India. Stylistically, Vajra distinguished itself with the 10-track début album, Pleroma, released last year on the summer solstice (June 21). Since then, interest has grown as Vajra tours and explores an enlightened realm of music evident in the group’s emotive rawness, ingenuity and fearlessness.
In March, Vajra joins the lineup for Heart of Texas Rockfest in Austin, and the group continues to sell out shows, impressing crowds throughout NYC to the West Coast. Pinna’s deeply moving presence in the studio and on the road sets this underground enchantress apart from the rest. She says there is divinity in creativity, noting the new album is an exploration in paradox. I’m compelled to agree. Vajra’s music intoxicates at times, apparent on Intuition and Erode the Will; yet remains hauntingly nuanced and charged at others (listen closely to Blind). The amped music video, Inside the Flame, has quickly become a fan favorite on YouTube, with it also featured on the Gothic Magazine Music Compilation Part LVI.
The debut LP, written, arranged and produced by Pinna, features some industry heavy hitters. Tom Baker (NIN, Foo Fighters, Ministry, Prince) mastered Pleroma, with Blake Fleming (formerly of The Mars Volta) on drums, ex-Harley’s War guitarist Will Dahl, Dirty Pearls bassist Doug Wright and Turtle Jon on Tabla. Grammy-winner Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of A Down, Prince, Johnny Cash) mixed the album and co-produced vocals.
In its entirety, Pleroma leans heavily on the deft arrangement of searing synths, powerful tribal percussion and intricate guitar play accentuating Pinna’s vocals awash in hypnotic mysticism and cosmology. Catch Vajra live, if you can. Or better yet, get this album and don’t waste any time fully experiencing the divine aural discoveries on Pleroma.
Vajra on Bandcamp: http://vajratemple.bandcamp.com/
Vajra’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/vajratemple