Raveena – Asha’s Awakening | Comments

On her sophomore album, the Queens-based singer delivers sunny wanderlust framed by airy R&B, lush South Asian grooves and futuristic pop.

The last time we heard a budding songbird Ravena on her debut studio album “Lucid” in 2019, she made a strong impression. The 12-track LP was the culmination of years of EPs and stellar singles, namely 2017’s “Shanti,” resulting in a triumphant, introspective honeycomb of cosmic R&B.

After releasing a single last year (“Tweety”), fans of the Indian-American singer were anticipating early on what was to come for the 27-year-old star. Too often in music, we hear about the “mythological sophomore spell,” and how it stifles even the most promising artists. Fortunately, some of Raveena’s best work can be found on her latest album and major label debut, “Asha’s Awakening.”

The first of two tracks is a pint-sized earworm with a romantic narrative core and growling drum patterns ripped straight from a Bollywood score. The latter definitely sounds more hip hop in its approach. While featuring a similar core to the previous track, “Secret” is undoubtedly bolder, with Raveena’s flirty demeanor and Staples’ slick, magnetic flow making them a complementary couple.

Assuming the role of Asha for the majority of the album – an intergalactic empress of an ancient kingdom – Raveena coaxes the album into her signature psychedelic musings. This is best exemplified by Asha Puthli’s collaboration “Asha’s Kiss”. On the track, Raveena uses the six-minute stretch to create a dreamlike soundscape that would underscore a PlayStation 2 high-fantasy adventure set above the clouds.

The album’s midpoint features the spoken interlude “The Internet Is Like Eating Plastic,” where Raveena takes to her stage to discuss the complexities and double-edged sword of internet culture. Although the track is harmless and somewhat thought-provoking, clocked in at two minutes and a few changes, it feels undermined by the later, more superior intermission, “Arrival to the Garden of Cosmic Speculation.”

Going through the tracklist, “Kathy Left 4 Kathmandu” is a cut that particularly stands out from the rest. The track is home to sharp guitar riffs and funk-focused instrumental examples of Raveena’s otherworldly musicality. Seriously, how are these many layers packed into a two-minute song?

We can say that the first half of the album is stronger than its last chapters. With songs like indie-pop leaning ‘Mystery’ and neo-soul overwhelmed ‘Circuit Board’ standing out as stronger compositions, compared to ‘Love Overgrown’ and the album-focused Mediation Session’ Let Your Breath Become a Flower’.

All in all, “Asha’s Awakening” is a remarkable project from start to finish. Part romantic epic, part sci-fi R&B dreamcatcher, Raveena sounds better than ever. Although the closer 13 minutes wobble on the long side, the album is conceptually and artistically fleshed out from front to back. This album wasn’t made to be dissected by playlists and shuffled around. It’s the kind of album you listen to on a summer afternoon on a decorated vinyl player soaked in dust particles. Like Sade before her, Raveena’s record is probably best enjoyed front to back. If our predictions are correct, this album will likely be cult and fondly remembered for years to come.

There’s no doubt that “Asha’s Awakening” has secured Raveena’s place among alt-R&B’s foremost pioneers and pushbacks. The album is bold, quirky and proudly rooted in classical South Asian traditions, while sounding fresh and accessible at the same time.

8/10

Words: niall smith // @niallsmith28

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