Seattle-based electro-indie pop artist Aradia is looking to join a very small group of rogue electronic music producers who, for lack of a better term, are a little strange. Artists like Bjork, Grimes and the lesser-known Otto Von Schirach march to the beat of their own drum machine. Creating electronic-based concept albums which show incredible skill and radical thinking, most of them are more than a little left of center. With her new album, Citizen of Earth, this quirky artist has also created a great concept album, but unfortunately the skill end of things needs a little work.
Aradia was born to parents who were involved in music and art and she took to her birthright at quite a young age. At three years old she learned piano and picked up multiple other instruments on her way to the Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College in New York. She left the school early, however, in favor of the less structured indie pop scene. After being in a few bands in New York, Aradia began collaborating with electronic music producer Wirth Lawson on an Atlanta project called Twelfth Planet (not associated with drum and bass producer 12th Planet). With Lawson, she developed an affinity for electronic music, but decided to go solo in 2014 and moved to Seattle where she produced Citizen of Earth.
Aradia’s sound is a blend of rock, pop, electronic and trip hop styles which she merges with esoteric, self-realizing and often a little spacey lyrics. All the songs on Citizen of Earth are written, performed and produced by Aradia alone. She also did all the graphic design for her website and promo photos and she designs her own clothing. Multi-genre art just oozes out of her, but it seems she may have spread herself too thin in the creation of this album. While Citizen of Earth has a great concept and good musical bones, it does not quite live up to the standards Aradia set for herself in trying to become one of the electro-indie elite.
The issue that resonates the most on Citizen of Earth has to do with mastering and post-production. Most of the songs are not quite as polished as audiences of this type of music are used to hearing, and they do not come together as well as expected. Mastering and post-production is very important when it comes to electronic music, because the tones are so precise, but in many of Aradia’s songs that element seems a little lazy, if it is even there at all.
Aradia’s voice is a deep and full-bodied alto, but possibly because of the lack of post-production on this album, in many songs it comes off as being tonally flat. As a trained vocalist, it is surprising to see this knowing her background. If she recorded the vocals and backing tracks separately, that could explain why the tones are a little off. Her lyrics are a highlight of the vocal tracks as they are interesting and intelligent, discussing many way-out topics like self-actualization and space exploration. The melodies on some of the tracks are a little lackluster, however, as some notes are drawn out and sound odd with the music. In this case there is no production issue to blame. The way the vocal tunes are composed sounds amateurish and contributes to the flatness issue.
It is not for lack of potential and skill that these issues have surfaced on Citizen of Earth, as there are indeed a few decent songs on the album. Knock Knock, the fourth track on the album, is an excellent example of the great music Aradia is capable of delivering. All the production issues disappear on this track and the vocals are pitch-perfect. The heavily syncopated backing beat is polished and finished and matches the vocals in tone and intensity. This track is so well done that it could hold up to artists like Bjork or Phantogram.
M-Class, the very next song, is an indie pop track which is also almost perfect. The snare-heavy breakbeat is complimented by spacey samples while Aradia’s pop-inspired lyrics are complimented by an indie guitar. The guitar works well with Aradia’s vocals by brightening up some of the tones which may have seemed flat in other songs. The next song, Magic, is also snare-heavy with a vintage drum and bass beat and some Indian-inspired ornamentation. Here Aradia’s vocals also mostly stand up to the music, though they can sound a bit lackluster in places. Citizen of Earth closes with So Long, a downtempo/triphop track in which the long, drawn out note progressions Aradia likes to compose in her vocals work well with the slow tempo.
For a first try on a solo album, Aradia has done some good work and no one can fault her for her concept. Concept is half the battle when dealing with the obscure and difficult genre Aradia has chosen to work within. In spacey electro-pop, the execution has to be meticulous and flawless, however, and it definitely takes a lot of practice to produce a technically perfect piece of work. Many artists work for years with teams of musicians and technicians to get it right, so for Aradia to have created this album almost all on her own, it is a solid start. A little fine tuning and possibly some help in mastering and post production is all Aradia needs to take her future ventures to an elite level. Citizen of Earth is available to stream or purchase on Aradia’s Bandcamp page and her tour schedule is listed on her website. Links to these pages can be found below in “Sources.”
Review by Layla Klamt