ProJect Aspect – Activated Surroundings [Album Review]
This year’s Cinco de Mayo was not only celebrated by rocking massive, festively colored sombreros while consuming inordinate amounts of tacos and tequila – music lovers from coast to coast were rejoicing in happiness due to the release of ProJect Aspect’s newest album, entitled Activated Surroundings. Denver native and current resident Jay Jaramillo, aka ProJect Aspect, has shown no signs of slowing down within the Colorado electronic music scene since he began making tunes back in 2008, especially with the introduction of his newest full-length album which precisely embodies his organic, original crunk style.
Activated Surroundings was released onto STS9’s 1320 Records, a label shared with the likes of Modern Measure, another CO resident, and Unlimited Gravity, a native-born Denver resident who is a close friend to Jay and occasionally shares the stage with him during their live collaboration performance, Unlimited Aspect. This album is captivating and is nothing short of a raw reflection of Jay’s heart and soul, which proudly represent all of his varied musical explorations and Colorado influences.
The album begins with “Dirty Journey”, an explosive track that features an intricately layered sound throughout its entirety, fusing glitchy breaks, drum n’ bass, and powerful in-your-face drops. The title “Dirty Journey” lives up to its name, sending you down a winding path which exhibits mind-bending bass at times, then trails off into lighter melodies, only to jump back into a more upbeat state which is played up by some sax for a subtle twist. To me, this is one of those tracks that you play repeatedly, each time discovering something new that you hadn’t recognized previously. This roughly 9-minute track implores every angle of Jaramillo’s complex and high-energy melodies; “Dirty Journey” compressed an entire ProJect Aspect set into one track, constantly incorporating different tempos and a plethora of instruments at all times throughout the song. At one moment, you’re immersed in a world composed of face-melting bass and synths, and the next you’ve transitioned seamlessly into a bouncy, uplifting environment.
“The name ‘Dirty Journey’ came up because it’s a long track,” says Jaramillo, “Its literally a journey through time and bass, it takes you so many different directions throughout the 9-minute song and the drop(s) are what make it dirty.”
A smooth blend of soul, funk, dreamy piano and downtempo beats come together to create “Bliznitz,” the second track of Activated Surroundings. This track flirts with a more delicate side to the album by slowing things down a bit and featuring instrumentals composed of jazzy piano, funky guitar, and a bubbly, drippy bassline.
“Bliznitz was a downtempo inspired tune,” explains PA, “I wrote it in preparation of playing with STS9 on New Year’s Day and their management asked us (Unlimited Gravity and myself) to play something ‘jazzy and classy’, most of our songs are hard-hitting and high-energy, so we wrote a whole set dedicated to that night, and ‘Bliznitz’ emerged as one of my favorite songs from that experience and made it onto the album!”
Even Genies can’t resist getting down when hearing Activated Surrounding’s “Genie Booty Bounce”, a darker, more twisted track than most of the tracks of the album. With so many phenomenal tracks, I wasn’t sure I would be able to pick a favorite, but that all changed when Genies Booty Bounce came on, I became hooked immediately. Its beginning starts with deep, drawn-out female vocals and then gets hit with some thrashing bass for a perfect balance of beauty and intensity. The track contains a few different drops, which is characteristic of Jay’s productions, but the drop that occurs at roughly 4 minutes is, in my opinion, the most climatic moment of not only the track but the album as a whole. The manner in which this song progresses and sneaks up on you is representative of Jay’s ability to be completely unpredictable as to what direction a song is headed. “Genies Booty Bounce is an example of how vast my bass music genre exploration can bend,” said Jaramillo, “I really just wanted to go outside of my comfort zone and create a shanti sounding song for the festivals and Burning Man inspired People,” a goal that I believe many Burners would agree has been achieved.
Diving deeper into the album, we come upon “Cactapus”, an energetic track that has very distinct psychedelic features . “Cactapus was inspired by Tipper. Tipper made me do it.” says Jay, and there’s no doubt that the Colorado-native merges some of the musical styles of Mr. Dave Tipper into this track, which sounds crisp and at moments ambient. House and techno influences come into play throughout the track, and piano adds a jazzy element. Futuristic funky goodness sums up this song pretty thoroughly.
ProJect Aspect is a member of the Mile High Sound Movement, a Denver-based record label that represents some of the most original talent found in the Mile High City. Jay will be performing a silent disco set alongside Unlimited Gravity at Counterpoint Music and Arts Festival, and is also scheduled to play at Sonic Bloom Music and Arts Festival in South Park, CO towards the end of June. Gearing up for their very first silent disco set at Counterpoint, one can only imagine the madness that will ensue during the silent whompage. Unlimited Aspect is sure to bring their Colorado-grown A-game and melt faces, which is standard procedure for the livetronica duo. If you’re attending Counterpoint or Sonic Bloom, do yourself a favor and catch Ronnie and Jay tear up the scene with their pinky’s up. You can download the album for free on the 1320 Records site here, and also discover more music from Jay and listen to Activated Surroundings here on his official ProJect Aspect SoundCloud.