I found this Portland, Oregon based band through Witch Mountain. Their vocalist Uta Plotkin is the founding member of this band, which plays live and records in between her Witch Mountain activities. Aranya’s music is a little different from WM’s more traditional sludge/rock/doom, and takes a more progressive approach.
Uta happens to play the viola (and I think piano as well), having had classical music training growing up. She makes good use of the viola in Aranya, playing some solos and melody lines to add variety to the otherwise guitar-based songs. I’ve noticed that many of her vocal melodies sound like viola or violin melodies, which is kind of interesting. I don’t know if it is intentional but it gives the music a unique feel that sounds completely different to the way most bands approach vocals.
Friction and Refraction are two separate, self-released EP’s that when put together, make up a short album’s worth of music. The first one, Friction, deals with “sexuality through heat metaphors” and it’s counterpart contains “five songs of reflection and rejuvenation,” to “soothe the beast.”
Friction is made up of mainly aggressive, punkier material, similar to that found in the debut A Violent Birth album (released as a CDR in 2009). The four tracks pass by quickly in a blur of energy and passion that is difficult to make sense of.
This is, of course, intentional. The more time you spend listening to Aranya, the more you realise that everything they do is deliberate.
Being the sexual part of this binary experience (including the title), it doesn’t try to be too high-brow or deep. This is the animal, primal part of the two EP’s, as illustrated by the erupting volcano on the cover.
It’s exciting and intense, but it is over all too quickly, leaving the listener with a mild sense of disappointment and asking themselves “is that it?”
Friction is the passion, senseless intensity and ultimate meaninglessness of sex condensed into four songs.
Refraction is a much more introspective listening experience. Its five tracks are slower paced and more melodic than Friction with darker lyrics.
What I like about this EP is the sense of depth that the songs have. Lyrically, they are just as avant garde and weird as the rest of Aranya’s output, with esoteric references and metaphors that don’t always register on first listen. For me, this is one of the band’s greatest strengths. They don’t dumb themselves down in an attempt to pander to a wider audience. I can’t help thinking that this may prevent them from gaining a larger following, but I don’t imagine they care. The fans they do have are too busy enjoying the music.
After the sexual frenzy of Friction, this second EP can feel quite bleak and depressing in places. Again, intentionally so. Both recordings manage to manipulate the listener’s emotions and take them on a journey. They have no control over the destination, and are required to put their faith in Uta and her band. Hopefully they will be able to deal with the results!
Refraction features some unusual instruments such as trombone and accordion on the track Chicory Key. Hearing the old squeeze-box instantly put me in mind of ‘Allo ‘Allo. Though it’s possible that the band have never seen the show, it did make me smile!
Both EP’s are dedicated the the memory of Cyan Wunderlich, a friend and supporter of the band.
You can stream Friction and Refraction for FREE (alongside other releases) before you decide to buy, from the Aranya Bandcamp site:
Copyright © Steve Wilson and The Third Realm, 2014