New York four-piece Vajra’s debut album Pleroma is the most pleasant of surprises. The first track kicks in with its treble-y, melodious bass and ominous drums and you think “oh, I get it – this is Tool.” But if you wait just a few seconds, the stately vocals of lead singer Annamaria Pinna enter the fray and you realize you’re in for something different. That exciting revelation lends an energy to the album that doesn’t really let up throughout its 10 tracks and 50 minutes of listening time. Front to back, this is a solid album from a band that should have no problem carving out a path to rock-and-roll excellence.
Annamaria Pinna’s impressive talent shines through clearly on this disc; in addition to her voice, she plays keys on the album and also writes all the songs. There’s a very Eastern bend to this music, which is where some Tool comparisons will no doubt come in; Pinna actually formed Vajra in India, so this should come as no surprise. Still, there’s a great mixture of rock elements with the Eastern influences. A track like “See Through You” demonstrates this nicely – it opens with a twin sitar/electric guitar riff, and soon a steady drumbeat kicks in to propel the song forward in true rock fashion.
For all her writing skill, though, Pinna’s voice cannot be underplayed. At its harsher moments, it recalls Shirley Manson with more attitude; in quieter, more contemplative passages, there’s an air of Patti Smith. This voice is truly the weapon that sets Vajra apart from other similar bands.
That said, the other instrumentalists on this album shouldn’t be sold short either. In particular, the rhythm section here – bass player Doug Wright and drummer Blake Fleming, formerly of the Mars Volta – do a great job creating a rich atmosphere to support Pinna. Fleming rocks some rhythms with toms and bongos that are totally impressive and frankly just sound really cool, while Wright fits into that too-small category of musicians who essentially play “lead bass.” More than Will Dahl’s guitar, which is used mostly for punctuation, Wright powers the rhythm that allows these songs to excel.
There’s really nothing bad to say about Pleroma. It’s a refreshing listen from a young, talented, and unique band. Early buzz for the group is good, and hopefully that will continue; it sure seems like there are a lot of great compositions left in Pinna’s head that ought to see public release.
For more information on Vajra, check out their website.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more