More than simply the title track from her last LP, “Inertia” is an exploration of stasis and a reminder of our cosmic relativity. “While we are standing still, the world is still moving,” Raza explains via email. “From afar, the earth can seem slow and lumbering, but up close, there is frantic motion happening everywhere.” This wisdom is translated by the Johnson’s vibrant video collage; a sensory wellspring that is neither hurried nor sporadic, but rather perfectly cued to knock the viewer into Sister Sai’s orbit.
Saira Raza ‘s new LP, , is a lovely, meditative, experimental album that explores themes of transformation and stillness on the individual as well as the planetary level. It’s the rare kind of album that reveals its secrets slowly, unfurling more with each listen until you feel profoundly, deeply touched.
From the staccato ambiance of ‘Gilgamesh,’ to the spacious boom of ‘Mercurial Mirror’ and closing number ‘Breadcrumbs,’ Raza raises the bar high with an album of cavernous beauty that settles in on the outskirts of jazz, ambient, and experimental music.
Inertia is somewhat of rarity in that it is conceptually unified, but musically diverse. Throughout the record, Raza traverses various interpretations of jazz, from the psychedelic to the ambient, with a lavish dose of exotica. However, in its truest form, Inertia is a folk album. In a broad sense, traditional folk provides cultural insight and lessons without preaching or lecturing, and that is precisely what Raza reinvents throughout the course of the record. Here, Raza is the performer and the audience, and the listener is drawn into her internal village as she wrestles with the collective truths of her past.
“Jeremi Johnson, the writer and producer behind 10th Letter, gently guides and directs the album through a variety of synthesizers and Ableton Live. However, it is his fellow performers who innovate on Johnson’s themes and paint over his lines, turning musical suggestion into a colorful universe. Saira Raza, one of Johnson’s most frequent collaborators, plays vibraphone in her trademark ethereal fashion alongside Dan Friedman (guitar), Gage Gilmore (bass) and Eric Grantham (drums). Together they explore new directions within Johnson’s songs, inundating the album with spirited surprises.”
Thanks to a grant from Art on the Atlanta Beltline, my friends and I performed a multimedia show entitled “Dandelion’s Voyage.” Set to my original music from Ephemera, First Flight, and some unreleased tunes, 10th Letter created live visual projections, while Sanam Studio Dancers and hula hooper Becky Katz brought the music to life with their original choreography. John Becker captured the performance in photos, which you can see here.
“Saira Raza’s debut EP exists in its own universe. In just five songs, the cellist and multi-instrumentalist seamlessly blends elements of Bollywood, jazz, folk, and classical music, and wraps them all up in a psychedelic package that transcends classification.” — Paul DeMerritt, Creative Loafing Atlanta
“Emerging Artist Residency (EAR) was established in 2009 by Atlanta Printmakers Studio (APS) to provide emerging artists the resources to create a body of work and an opportunity for professional development. APS’s mission is to nurture the practice of printmaking by providing the means for artists to make prints while celebrating and educating the community about the fine art of printmaking. EAR accomplishes this goal by providing artists a well-equipped studio, education, mentorship, exhibition, as well as, a unique opportunity to work with practicing artists of varied backgrounds and diverse skills.
For the purposes of this program, an emerging artist is someone who shows significant potential, yet has not achieved a corresponding amount of professional accomplishment and recognition as an artist, regardless of age or recognition in other fields.”
“Raza’s songs…are cinematic, evoking vivid images of secluded forests, empty fields bathed in starlight, and abstract landscapes of a different reality. What listeners might not realize about Raza’s music is that nearly every instrument, save some percussion and textural elements courtesy of 10th Letter, is played by her. Banjo, guitar, bass, vocals, vibraphone, found sounds, and even percussive uses of the cello are all coming from the same mind.”