Aura Blaze is a dream pop/shoegaze/psych pop project started by producer and instrumentalist Rod Rachel with his debut album Zappa-esque 2015. It was clearly influenced by old rock bands like the Beach Boys, King Crimson and The Doors with a hint of psychobilly a’la The Cramps, Aura Blaze’s style at the time was big, bold, and lively a bit retro—a match in the style of The Polyphonic Spree. However, this massive orchestral sound is only made by one person, so it’s no surprise that Rachel has made a name for herself in more than one independent genre.
While the first album was almost entirely analog rock, it’s also not surprising its cinematic, larger-than-life, Spector-esque style of sound that with later releases, Aura Blaze would continue to incorporate electronic styles. 2019’s sparkling black It showed clearer electronic playback in both the synth’s sound design, as well as the healthy fusion of Jethro Tull-style prog-rock. 2020 saw his next single “The Ordeal of the Soul Burning in the Face of Deadly Toil” – try saying it five times fast – and he continued that path with storytelling in prog-style and psychedelic sound strings while adding more synths and sound design.
The focus on esoteric and spiritual vibes with psychedelic music seems to have acted as a catalyst for Aura Blaze’s style with the very long title mentioned above, but it took a difficult turn, or rather, an evolutionary step, with Rachel’s next track, “Trans-Palm Tree Dimensions.” Moving on over ’90s Cure guitars and Maudlin tones and loading up on a more ambient sound design, Rachel’s vocals have become softer and more drone-like, making Ian-Curtis-on-his-meds (or just Ian Brown’s baritone, perhaps?) The music was more cool and dreamy than psychological rock. Updated but still getting its star point, Trans-Dimensional Palm has made an impact and is still among the most streamed tracks on Aura Blaze’s Spotify page.
flash forward to open mind Aura Blaze’s latest EP which was dropped last month on Christmas Eve, Rachel has maintained that vein but has reincorporated psychological rock and more styles into the two original tracks. The title track is just as operatic and luxurious as Rachel’s previous work, but there’s still great vocal contrast after the punk and chord sequences. There’s also progressive bass action, ’80s-style syncopation and even a bit of late disco that connects larger theatrical sounds with soft fox. Meanwhile, The Summer Solstice pays homage to Aural Blaze’s psychological roots of the ’60s with Doors-style organ synths and surf rock tunes, all while Rachel lyrically praises the sun as literally “Aura Blaze.”
last track on open mind If any of the readers have questioned this long-suffering nerd’s ability to pick such an influence from the work of a modern artist, it’s the cover of “The Only One I Know” by The Charlatans UK. Arguably an icon of ’90s Brit rock and shoegaze, The Charlatans were also heavily influenced by the typical rock and ’60s psyche, so there you have it. Rachel’s version of The Charlatans’ biggest hit can be called a remix, adding a lot of the seemingly space-based ambient sound design to the original structure of the track (maybe even the original stems) and more embellishment around the synths, making it equally more theatrical and wall-of-sound than the original. It’s a great update to the classic and it does more than do it justice.
With all the styles and voices that Rachel like Aura Blaze is incorporating into his work and all the different directions he’s already taken, one thing that hasn’t changed and it probably isn’t his message. While Psych Rock, shoegaze, Dream pop et al. They all have some sort of quality and are esoteric, and the Aura Blaze goes beyond just triple musings. His words and philosophy are rooted in spirituality and the expression of high vibrations, and he sees his music as merely a delivery system. A very complex, diverse and expertly crafted delivery system, but a delivery system nonetheless. With nearly endless ways to create said system, there are also endless possibilities as to where he’ll go next with his voice, but it’s guaranteed to be lush, powerful, and heavy in the context of an Astral Blaze.
openness Not on the popular psychic pop label Cleopatra Records. Stream it and the full Astral Blaze graphics on Spotify or click here to stream or buy on other platforms.
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