Asura: Asura
Non Projects

If there's one word to describe the inaugural release by Non Projects and the self-titled debut by Asura, it's mercurial. The thirteen-track collection of expansive electronica by LA-based musician and producer Ryan York resists easy pigeon-holing in its forty-one minutes. In drawing upon training in classical and jazz (as a bassist, cellist, guitarist, and trumpeter) and marrying it to computer-based production methodologies, York creates multi-dimensional miniatures that command one's attention despite their relative brevity.

Following “Asura I,” a prelude of cloudy textures, strings, and female voiceover, we get “Peptine,” an elegant electronica setting where neon lights pierce the late-night metropolis. The later “Asura II” offers a fireworks display of explosive electronic treatments, textures, and beats, while multi-layered trumpets in “Asura III” call to mind Jon Hassell's elephantine buzz. Four fully-developed compositions stand out: perched midway between radiant IDM and jaunty techno, “Saw You In Vice” (Anenon Birthday Remix) joyfully wraps itself in grainy textures as it spiritedly heads towards its destination; “Manzanita” augments uplifting vocal melodies with cello playing and grainy atmosphere; the 21st-century electro-ballad “Timber” is distinguished by the inclusion of Ana Caravelle's appealing voice; and “Feathers” spans multiple decades by embedding the emotive cry of an ancient chant within an electronic-tribal framework.

Whether the pieces in question are brief interludes, sketches, or full-fledged compositions, York brings a similar degree of attention to detail and sound design to all and digital treatments are applied plentifully but not gratuitously. If there's a downside to the release, it's that cohesiveness is the price paid for such diversity: it's difficult to get a clear sense of who and what Asura is when almost every one of the recording's tracks is something unique unto itself, despite the fact that an underlying concept—the experience of falling in love against the backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles, apparently—is on hand to tie things together on a thematic level.

February 2010