AJ Simons "Soul Spa" Review
Swedish Vocalist Aj Simons teamed up with Estonian Executive Producer and Parent Company Label Boss umru to release Soul Spa, Simons’ debut project. Heavy hitting producers in the underground experimental scene such as DJH, Himera, umru himself, Pipes, and warpstr lend their sounds to create intense and impactful bass with ethereal and mysterious timbres floating nearby. The superstar team creates a psychedelic soundscape for simons to explore with his autotuned falsetto delivery.
Entering the Soul Spa is like exploring an alien garden, with simons’ voice flying in and around the landscape in a way reminiscent of Bladee or Ecco2k, however simons develops beyond the vampiric and robotic flows laid down by Drain Gang in the late 2010s. Simons vocal mixing is on point: the tuning speed is cranked all the way down on the retuning software, however the vibrato and natural flow between notes allows the vocals to toe the line between human pain and robotic melody. The lyrical content is vulnerable, and Simons laments over unrequited and difficult love, brags about niche internet stardom, and croons over clubbing.
As far as the production is concerned, kick drums are sparse, and executive producer umru uses pitch envelopes on the bass instead. A pitch envelope is essentially pitch modulation that follows the initial pluck of the bass note. Most of the hats and snares use a low pass filter, which removes the harmonic overtones of the sample or instrument, and low pass filters create a sense of distance by muffling a sound, subduing the classic umru clang snare and creating space for Simons’ vocal explorations.
As the genesis of the Rei View series, Simons’ first release seemed appropriate for review. He has made leaps and bounds of progress, with any album cut being comparable to what I consider his best single, Tension. When reviewing a piece of art it is important to look at two factors: what is this piece trying to do, and does it succeed in that goal? What do I think Aj Simons is trying to do with this release? Not only is Soul Spa a exploration self expression and a deconstruction of the classic trope of the tortured avant-garde pop artist, Soul Spa succeeds in painting a picture of Aj Simons’ creative world and elevating the listener into an ethereal, almost liminal space beyond the everyday grind. Soul Spa communicates an otherworldly picture of eudaimonia and moody reflection reminiscent of Drain Gang releases and breathes fresh air into the cloudy internet scene.
Written By Rei Low: twitter.com/_rocktimist
Follow Aj Simons: twitter.com/ajsimons96?s=21
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Photography By: www.instagram.com/sur_pupp/