“Ascend” is the second solo album by the German musician Jaja (Jana Rockstroh), and is released on the netlabel she co-founded, CYAN Music; its predecessor “Oum” was issued in 2011. She is also one half of the psytrance duo “New Age Hippies“. Jaja describes her music as live electronic compositions, where she plays and arranges nearly everything live on her keyboard, which always makes for interesting listening.
The album is an epic project, clocking in at over two-and-a-half hours. “Aero” has a stately opening, with grand washes of synths pulling around vortex-like under an ethereal choir. “Entity” is dark and dense, with snippets of alien speech floating above huge dramatic chord clusters and a Vangelis-like lead. “Stellae” is the longest track here at 21:00, its massive textures rolling around the soundfield, almost filling every last atom in the air, leading to breathtakingly gorgeous note shifts. It’s utterly stunning.
“Ever” starts quite unsettled, before minor chords lay out almost hymnal tones under static ticks and long, low rumbles, offset by distant piano-like keys; the track is somewhat restless, never quite resolving itself. “Novae” shimmers and shifts elegantly above an undercurrent of dark activity. “Devoid” opens with alien speech as a centre-point, almost percussive in nature; warm spacey chords drift lazily around under light oriental bell-like sounds.
“Once” is a gentle journey, lone notes ringing out slowly above clear skies like an anthem. The music is much more minimal than the previous tracks, which provides us with a great contrast. The long minor pads of “Connect” slowly shift to major and back as unearthly rain bounces endlessly to and fro, and lonely string synths paint sadness. “Talis” has great cosmic roars and smaller metallic coils rotating around thin bellows of keys. Again, there’s no resolution to the music – it shifts and whirls, conjuring a gigantic picture.
“IO” has Jaja’s voice (I presume) talking, then reversed, over slow-moving synths and light piano melodies; a dense stack of notes piles up before fading away. “Rain” is light and almost acoustic in nature. Cello-like strings are accompanied by guitar, weaving an intricate, evocative pattern. The closing track, “Run”, is a solo keyboard exposition, lovely reverb tailing off of single notes; there are no real chords as such, other than those created by the overlapping tails. It’s very pretty, and a lovely finish to a fine album.