A 2018 Album More People Need to Hear: ‘Ajna’ by The Saw Range
With the end of the calendar year closing in, it’s the time when many music journalists will be writing up their best of 2019 lists. For this writer, an album from last year that I only recently discovered has me wanting to go back and revise my best of 2018 selections. Ajna, by Spain’s The Saw Range, is a gem of a record that’s filled with melodious wonders. With The Saw Range on the verge of releasing a follow-up album, it’s the perfect time for more discerning listeners to get acquainted with this singular act.
The Saw Range is primarily a one-woman band, in the person of composer/vocalist/instrumentalist Eva Lasierra. Lasierra works with collaborator/producer Oscar Arroyo on studio recordings and plays with a full band when performing live, but essentially The Saw Range is her baby. She explains that the name of her act is a combination of a kind of play on her last name, in addition to a reference to an evolution of personal growth.
People who listen to Ajna and who seek musical reference points to connect it with, are likely to think of Mazzy Star. The trance-inducing qualities of some of the sounds, and the sensual, female-sung vocals, invite that comparison. But to classify the album as a Mazzy Star sound-alike, or to lump it in with dream pop in general, is to unnecessarily limit one’s appreciation of the music. Ajna has an overall tone that makes it ultimately cohesive, yet each song has its own distinct personality, separate from the one before it. And some of it isn’t dream pop at all. “The Love Party” has a campfire hootenanny sing-along feel. “Minamilistic” is a short but sprawling ballad with a hallucinatory aura. “Universe,” a patient, ambling mid-tempo track, is blessed with a mesmerizing vocal melody, and “Light” is driven by a Neil Young and Crazy Horse desert rock instrumental sound. “Dreamer,” with its buzzing sprays of guitar and rolling melody, is a standout track that sounds like a single.
And then there’s the album’s first song, “You’re Gone.” Lasierra’s assured a cappella humming serves as the introductory set of sounds of Ajna and immediately arrests one’s attention. When the ringing guitars kick in a few bars later, you know you’re hearing a song you’ll hope will go on forever. “You’re Gone” is an ideal record opener and it fully showcases Lasierra’s rich and alluring singing and varied instrumental capabilities.
In Hindu teachings, the concept of Ajna refers to a third eye, one fully tapped into a person’s spiritual self and subconscious thoughts,that can view existence in a more penetrating way than our primary two globular organs. Lasierra’s lyrics on the record are both elemental yet deeply probing. The album’s third eye appears to be focusing in on basic, timeless human emotions. Lasierra explains the origins of the album, and how she views its overall essence:
“Well, about a year ago, I worked as a music teacher and studied opera at a conservatory. I was not happy and I began to compose and record my ideas, until Oscar Arroyo, my producer, composer and a multi-instrumentalist musician, proposed to record my debut LP. I needed to do something different and I started with integral yoga, and this opened the doors for me. I felt free after many years with fear of expressing myself singing, and finally I recorded Ajna as a musical work that evokes love, peace and freedom.”
Lasierra is also a visual artist. When asked about this avenue of her creative expression, she humbly tells, “Hehe, the truth is that I am not a professional painter or photographer, but I love it. Sometimes I make melodies and other times I make paintings and photographs.”
The melodies she made on Ajna combine to create a sensorial garden of ear-pleasing musical surprises and delights. It’s a first album by an artist who already sounds fully in possession of her considerable talents. Music scribes might want to wait to hear The Saw Range’s forthcoming album (Flowers for Dreams is the planned title) before completing their best of 2019 lists.
– Brian Greene
The Saw Range – ‘Ajna’ (2018)