Saturday, December 22, 2012


Rajna - Otherwise
Holy Records, 2006
Genre: Neofolk

1. Porcelain Sky
2. Shall I Go?
3. Angel
4. Just My Life
5. Colours of Love
6. Prima Ballerina
7. Abyss
8. Radio Island
9. Secret Place
10. Lost Memories
11. Black Humanity
12.  When I was a Child...
13. Antalya
14. Porcelain Sky (Quitar Edit)
[Video] Porcelain Sky

By far one of the most shocking albums I’ve heard in 2006.  No, this isn’t exactly a good shocking.  It’s more of the confusing kind with a painful distaste after realization of what changed.  Basically what everyone has come to expect from Rajna should be thrown out the window right now.  If you’re expecting another amazing release into foreign lands with beautifully haunting vocals, get that right out of your head.  This is barely even Rajna, and as a rather long time Rajna fan I am very dismayed to bring this news to their ever growing fan base.

Rajna typically release new music every two years, and last year in 2005 they gave us a treat of a best of, I’m not sure if this was a signal to everyone that maybe things would change, but it certainly never occurred to me.  The first clue we get to a different Rajna is the track listing, because the titles are so different from previous releases.  “Otherwise,” musically, is an extremely deceiving album at first, but they don’t take long to tell you what exactly is going on.  “Porcelain Sky” begins with, what we would all assume, is a normal successful Rajna album.  However, about halfway in the looped drum beats kick in, so you know they’re experimenting.  It’s not the end of the world at that point, of course, because with “Porcelain Sky” you get some ethnic parts blended with looped drums, which is seriously the same beat Autumn Tears used for “The Dance”.  Anyway, it seemed to work, but Rajna lost their haunting edge in this song.  Jeanne’s vocal performance was strikingly different.  At first it’s the normal Rajna method then breaks into a spoken word part and has a more contemporary vocal sound after that.  I guess this was the design, so that people would know Rajna would not be Rajna on this release.  I feel the vocal presentation is ultimately what leads to my distaste of the song, though it wasn’t abhorrent.  The next track doesn’t hold back, it doesn’t deceive.  It’s one hundred percent a different genre altogether.  That’s right, Rajna no longer even play in the same genre they used to.  Basically the best way I can personally think to describe this is Contemporary Industrial.  One of the factors that give it that contemporary feel is the seemingly arbitrary electric guitar solos.  They don’t really work at all with this album or this music style, but they insist on using them on more than one song.  All the wonderful ethnic instrumentation they used from other lands is barely even present on “Otherwise.”  You see it make a presence in “Antalya,” which is really the only song that has the instruments they used in previous albums, but it has a totally different feel, and it doesn’t work at all with the album as a whole because ultimately it’s very out of place.

I understand a musician’s need to escape from stagnation.  After releasing seven albums of essentially the same exact style I can understand their need for experimentation.  But a complete genre change is rather uncalled for.  Why not just have a side project and leave Rajna as it is.  I mean, I would’ve still probably gotten the side project album, but seeing as how it’s like this I would just not buy anymore albums from the side project, whereas I don’t know if the next Rajna album would be like this or if it will return to what they used to do.  I’m honestly wary now about buying the next Rajna, and I can’t imagine that’s a good thing to have happening to your fan base.  I mean some experimentation could work, such as the more industrialized beats during the ethnic style of previous albums.  Maybe that would have been interesting and probably would have worked a whole lot better than this.  Rather than switching over to that Gothic style of sorts that fans of the group Olen’k would probably enjoy.  I still say a side project would’ve been the smartest move.  I mean could you imagine if Ihsahn had released the Peccatum albums under the Emperor moniker or even the Ihsahn solo project, the fans would have been furious.  While there are some fans who like both Emperor and Peccatum, it’s not a one hundred percent enjoyment from all fans.  Same goes for Rajna, not all Rajna fans will like this new direction.  Or could you imagine if Morgan Hakansson released Abruptum under the Marduk name?  People wouldn’t know what to buy.  It’s just logical that if you’re going to shift genres entirely to create a new project.  There are too many cases where this action makes sense; “Otherwise” is one of these cases.

The other part that really kills this release for me is that the lyrics are sung in fairly clear English.  Shockingly for the first time Rajna has also printed their lyrics.  To be frank, the lyrics are annoying.  The song “Antalya” has a great part, but it has this terrible spoken word over it about leaving and going to the desert lands and it completely ruins the song.  “Antalya” could have been a really good Rajna song and one of the only mentionable on the album, but it was just ruined by this part.  Jeanne’s singing vocals are even like the older Rajna albums so it could have been very well done, but they decided not to go with that idea.  The other somewhat mentionable track is “Black Humanity.”  This actually starts off really interesting, but later on ends up having far too much vocal layering and kind of messes up the song.  One thing that’s also interesting about this song is it seems to be inspired by the middle-eastern terrorist movement.  The lyrics reference how it’s a bad thing to be hateful and how they have no love and something to that nature, one line in particular says “I’m afraid of the black colour of the world.”  Which got me wondering about how they feel about this review being on a predominantly Black Metal review site?  I wonder if my review and points will fall on deaf ears merely because I support a war on Christianity, so thus I “hate” or am “intolerant” of certain things that I think ruin life.  Then again who doesn’t hate?  Anyway, I swear the opening notes on the guitar for the song “Lost Memories” is directly ripped off from Manes’ “Terminus a Quo/Terminus ad Quem.”  Though it’s interesting to mention Manes in this, since they strangely changed genres too, but they probably should’ve changed names as well.

In the end I was sorely disappointed in this album and I think a lot of Rajna fans will have the same feelings as me.  I know there are some that will probably enjoy the new direction, but this sorely needed to be another project.  This way I will not be left wondering if the next Rajna album will be something I dislike.  I may buy the next Rajna album just to see, but if they play this style on the next album or maybe even progress then I can assure you, I will not be purchasing another Rajna album after that.  This is not what Rajna was inspired by when they began, thus Rajna no longer hold something interesting for me to follow if they continue on with this style.  It’s their music; they can do what they want ultimately, I’m merely suggesting a logical path to keep their fans wanting more, not wanting less.  Rajna fans would easily seek out a side project with both members, so I don’t know what stops them from doing a group under a different name.

The only thing on youtube I could find from this album is "Porcelain Sky".  I would have preferred to find a later track, which is probably more indicative of the rest of the album.

Rajna - Ishati
Projekt, 2001
Genre: Ethnic/World Music

1. Kahar
2. Yak
3. Silnen Kempur
4. Rajna
5. Sanctuary
6. Ophelia
7. Milaki
8. Nomineum
9. Lahul Nati
10. Sién
11. Nundré
12. Traghodhia
13. Sharanghi

Rajna is slightly outside the scope of Ambient, but I personally think they deserve some recognition because they evoke a lot of the same emotions and feelings from their music as Ambient does.  However, Rajna are so wonderfully skilled at it that I would be impressed to find a project that could even rival this in scope.

Rather than playing the typical synth or keyboard driven Ambient music, Rajna actually fit into a genre of music known as Ethnic/World Music.  I’m not saying this music is devoid of synth, it’s just not completely synth driven.  Don’t let the fact that they are from France confuse you though, Rajna do not actually perform native French songs or anything of the ilk.  The Music is highly driven by Oriental and Indian Ethnic varieties and sometimes they have some Middle-Eastern instrumentation included in the performance from what I can hear.  This is truly a project for an open minded person, and I personally love Middle-Eastern and native Indian oriented music.  Rajna put their own interesting twist on the composition though; I highly doubt we would find this music to be considered purely “traditional.”  The music is very dark and moving throughout the entire album and it features an absolutely exquisite female vocal performance to lead you through the passages.  They use all natural/ethnic instrumentation from the regions they are trying to emulate, but I think the compositions are truly their own creation.  I personally do not know how a native to Tibet or India would view this music, simply because it isn’t incredibly traditional in that sense, but I love the overwhelming dark atmosphere inherent to the Rajna recordings.  I would actually prefer this over some of the traditional recordings I’ve heard from the region Rajna is emulating.  The music as a whole is actually decently varied; at times the vocals take the lead like in “Nundré” and others it’s just instrumentation like “Kahar.”  Another really interesting aspect to Rajna is they took the time to list the instruments used in each individual song on the booklet, for those interested in ethnic instrumentation.

Surprisingly this is an exceptional debut full length album; however, this is not the first piece of music Rajna has ever released.  They have an earlier recording prior to this one, which I have not heard yet, but I imagine it’s what got them signed to Projekt for this release.  The recordings were all done between 1997 and 1998 at their home, apparently.  They must have some decently impressive studio equipment to get this quality of a home recording.

“Ishati” marks the first official process in the world of Rajna bringing the ethnic sounds of India, Tibet, and even dabbling in the Middle-Eastern genre as well to the listener’s world.  If you want to take an impressive journey, as if visiting the ruins of ancient cultures, then Rajna is the best auditory representation you can find out there in my opinion.  On the Projekt repress of “Ishati” they had a comment about Rajna and I think it would be good to quote them at this point in closing to my own personal outlook on this album.  Truly a beautiful journey and one I hope to take many times in the future with their coming releases.

“Rajna arose from a passion for ethnic musical instruments.  It is an encounter between different cultures: a music tinged with occidental and oriental sonorities as well as Tibetan and Indian ones.  Rajna also introduces a voice full of mysteries and emotion.  It is an invitation to travel and also an invitation to the independence of the spirit.”
- Projekt (2001)

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