AJA follows her self-titled 2018 debut on Opal Tapes with 'Slug', an intensely emotional work mapping the journey of recovery through addiction through a lightning jar of relentless beats, vocal mutations and bracing noise.
Opener “Flesh Tactic” decomposes through wraithlike synths distorting and feedback knotting around ever shifting drum patterns. AJA’s use of stereo panning conveying a sense of being trapped in your own head, where everything is fragmented and you feel disoriented.
The sick aggression of “Grime” represents AJA regaining power and clarity. A focussed onslaught of bursting energy. Mind and body locked in resentment and frustration manifest as a riot of pugilistic beats and grinding synths.
Masterstroke “Skittish” finds Aja purging the energy and ideas rushing around her head through her drum machine. An alien intelligence at work as beats sputter, slap and seethe, AJA switching between multiple tracks and kits, BPM mutating and patterns dice rolled into new forms.
An homage to SOPHIE, “Slug” is high NRG admiration bottled for the late producer to create fierce techno, gleaming with metallic tones, sharpened to cut through a dancefloor with scything ability.
The hyper rhythmic and turbulent sound world of the first four gives way to the layered vocals and shimmering textures of “Grief Hole”, a beatless track that emerges, crawling. The lyrics find her urging the core of her addiction to “go back inside” and let her be. The track ends with a moment of levity in the form of a voicemail from her dad, his warm greeting lifting AJA out of it and forward.
“Ode to SOPHIE” cuts from a sample pack created by the late producer. Off-stepping bass abstractions give the heartbeat to a vocal cut of excoriating power. Glinting knife sharpeners and glottal syncopations wrap themselves in knots around this dark confessional.
Created for an installation and virtual reality animation by artist Ryan Heath, “The Thinning” takes inspiration from the “witch marks” at Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge on the border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, England. Several centuries ago, locals carved ritual protection marks in the caves to protect themselves from death, disease and evil forces. AJA combines field recordings from the caves with synthetic sounds made by sonifying the symbols in the Pixelsynth app, creating a sonic manifestation of otherworldly forces.
And out. Exhausted. Slug is an immense, damaging and damaged listen.
The videos accompanying the release were created during a residency with IMPATV at Islington Mill, Salford. With costume design by LULALOOP.
released October 1, 2021
Written & Recorded by Aja Ireland
Mixed by Andrew Course