What does a daydream sound like? Is it an audible confidence boost, a concentrated dose of caffeine shot straight into the bloodstream of dancing feet, a blue so overwhelmingly electric its field stretches as far as the eye can see? On Amadeus, the newest Ghostly effort from New York’s Lord RAJA, the shapeshifting producer answers his own question with a cunning, childlike purity not felt since he started tinkering with Fruity Loops aged six.
Though his means of music-making have matured since then—on Amadeus he utilizes an arsenal of drum machines along with synthesizers and an Allen & Heath analog mixer slammed through for extra crunch—RAJA describes a deliberate return to youthful experimentation and immediacy, clearing the way for a “vista to his childhood.”
Having produced 2015’s PARA full-length in the confines of his parents’ home in upstate New York, he moved to Brooklyn after its release and found himself in a basement studio, isolated from the influence of knowingness, wide-eyed once more. Soon after, he joined Ghostly labelmates Shigeto and Heathered Pearls for an extensive European tour and found inspiration in the continent’s heady history of techno—but more by its lack than its abundance. “When I would go out I would see techno DJs, but it didn’t really speak to me, it was kind of boring,” he says. “People are so fucking precious about techno, or dance music, or club music. It’s like people who wash their hands until they bleed. It’s unnecessarily pristine. So I wanted to make the shit I would want to hear.”
Returning to the basement armed with this self-challenge and an intentional naïveté, RAJA composed a flurry of one-take productions, often making tracks over the course of an evening and road testing them with walks to the waterfront when the rest of Brooklyn had gone to sleep. Imbued in them all is what he describes as “micro-choices”—the practice of very simple effects and subtle sonic decisions—in a nod to longtime influence from the nuance and subconscious innovation of Stanley Kubrick’s filmmaking.
Longtime fans of the producer may be accustomed to productions more directly aligned with hip-hop and leftfield beats, but his swagger hasn’t gone anywhere despite the decidedly dancier change of form. The release is bookended by an exuberant and naturally collaborative piece with AceMo—a fellow New Yorker whom RAJA describes as his favorite producer—and bonus track “Fox Den,” an eight-minute cosmic meander released as part of the Adult Swim singles series last year. On standout “O.K” his customary percussive potpourri mingles with cheeky vocal chops and an electro bounce even the most humorless club patron couldn’t resist. “Black Coffee,” another highlight, features synth lines so darkly acidic they should come with toxic warnings. RAJA describes the track title as a literal take – a soundtrack to jolt first date jitters, a call to cool courage.
Amadeus, meanwhile, he suggests is a cheeky nod to the complex richness of his musical heritage. He says, “I think it’s kinda funny to flip an idea of western imperialism and how it proliferated. It’s playful as an Indian man to call yourself Amadeus, knowing how much composers borrowed from eastern classical influences.”
Spanning eight tracks and due for release on cassette, the EP isn’t exactly conventional—but intentionally so. From process to product, Lord RAJA has captured melody as embodied reverie. The six-year-olds in us all are cutting shapes.