There’s really only one way to listen to this album.
Turn it on, put in the background, and do some work.
Alaya Vijana, like most electronica, is background music. Texture is everything, and quite frankly, there’s little to distinguish the duo’s self-titled debut from, say, a remix of Steve Reich.
That Music for Airports test this site keeps running against everything? Alaya Vijana passes with flying colors.
So does that mean it’s sonic wallpaper? No.
The improvisations of U-Zhaan (sitar player for Asa-Chang) and Yoshida Daitiki (tabla and percussion) are actually engaging. Long-winded though the album may get toward the end, it basks in quite a beautiful aural collage.
And a pulse makes all the difference.
While there may be no melodies to speak of throughout Alaya Vijana, there is rhythm, and a sense of movement, even when the music transforms slowly.
“Minami no Hikari” is all reverb, but the gentle rattle of percussion gives it life. Yoshida really burns on “Yoru no Kujira”, but his momentum is counterbalanced by the long washes of sound layered over him.
The pulse is even more insistent on “Umetaterareta Umi no Ii Bun”. The way it fades in and out is very reminiscent of Reich.
Alaya Vijana’s music probably could have stood on its own as pure instrumentals, but with UA providing improvised vocals, the music turns primitive.
UA doesn’t just hum on this album — she gets gutteral, even sexual. She adds a layer of passion from which the music definitely benefits.
Alaya Vijana, the album, may be yet another album that sounds best when it’s actively ignored, but what seeps into the subconscious is still rather nice.