By David Dawson
Ajeet's Lunar: A spiritual journey
Recently I went on a journey, and physically I never even moved. The journey I went on was that of Ajeet’s latest release Lunar. Despite containing only four individual pieces the combination of traditional Gaelic sounds inspired by her Irish heritage with modern production create for a truly unique sound but one that is undeniably breathtaking. The work beautifully brings together spirituality, mental health and an exhibition of exceptional vocals from start to finish and truly transports you from the very spot where you stand.
The work opens with Dance of the Moon, one of two shorter songs of the collection. It sets out the album perfectly, introducing the violin and traditional Irish feel early on whilst offering a gentle build throughout that keeps you intrigued and engaged. It also showcases for the first time an effect that is used throughout which is the layering of Ajeet’s voice, considering the unique qualities of Ajeet’s voice on its own this effect creates a truly wonderful sound and offers a further richness to the already thick texture. Despite it being easy to get caught up in the vocals the end of the song involves Ajeet’s voice dropping away completely, leaving a few seconds for the listener to fully appreciate all the mesmerising sounds that have been in the background. This is the perfect start to the album for me, showcasing to us the spiritual and relaxing experience we are set to enjoy ahead.
This is followed by Full Moon Meditation, one of the two longer and more atmospheric musical works. Right towards the beginning of the piece Ajeet’s voice is reintroduced to us this time not in English, whilst at first my initial reaction was that it makes it somewhat hard for me to engage with the song this seems like the reasoning behind it:
The piece is after all a meditation tool and the lack of lyrics or words for me to get hung up on meant that I was free from distraction and able to let the sounds take over. The way this piece is put together is really a work of art, whilst sounding simple on the surface a closer listen reveals just how many separate sounds and effects there are going on, all working together to make an interwoven texture. There is a use of subtle builds and very slight and gradual changes to the music that almost trick you, not noticing that anything has happened until it becomes plainly obvious. Similarly to Dance of the Moon this song also strips back at the end, this time instead taking away almost everything and leaving us to focus on Ajeet’s voice which is a joy to behold.
This takes us back to our second shorter song, When She Rises. This time the lyrics are much more of a centrepiece with a strong message about spirituality and mental health. Lines such as “It was time for the moon to rise in me”, “If you find yourself lost and afraid, don’t lose hope, don’t hesitate, look to the sky, and the stars will lead you home again” and towards the end, "Let go and the current will lead you home” all contribute to the message encouraging us not to panic or stress, not to let anything get us down but to let things be and let things work themselves out. This is such a powerful statement for many people out there who suffer with anxiety which can make it far too easy to become overwhelmed or scared; the reassurance that Ajeet offers in this song that actually things will be ok and things will work out is truly uplifting. This song also makes use of the layering of Ajeet’s voice to great effect and combines it with a beautiful harp in the background that along with the soothing lyrics and the ‘everything will be ok’ message give this song an almost lullaby feel.
Shadow Moon is the final piece on the album and the second of the longer atmospheric pieces. The piece starts without any vocals and this allows a full focus to be granted to the other sounds within the music. When Ajeet’s voice does make an appearance is it not as a lyrical centrepiece but as another instrument with sounds and vocalisations used to contribute to the texture as opposed to coming out on top of it. This piece is textured possibly even more beautifully than any of the other songs on the album as the vast array of different sounds and subtle changes almost sounds like one, when listening I could see a flowing line in my head that the music followed. The ability for the music to do this as well as having an interwoven and complex texture simultaneously is outstanding.
Overall, this work is really beautiful, a collection of spirituality, mental health, meditation and some sounds that are just so easy on the ear. The use of the ‘song – longer atmospheric piece – song – longer atmospheric piece’ format may make it difficult for many people to engage with the album and may also take away from the individual pieces, as someone listening for meditation may not enjoy Dance of the Moon whereas someone looking for a song to enjoy and sing along to may struggle to engage with Shadow Moon, but the collection is a well thought out spiritual journey and each piece contributes to this in their own way. Furthermore, in the age of streaming it is perfectly easy for someone to just access the songs or the meditation pieces depending on what they like or what purpose they are listening for on that particular day. Personally, listening to the EP from start to finish was an amazing journey of spirituality and swept me away completely, therefore in reality it would seem a shame to separate the songs anyway.
After reviewing Ajeet’s Lunar I was lucky enough to ask her some questions about her new EP, spirituality and mental health.
Hi Ajeet! Thanks so much for talking to me today! I recently have been listening to your new EP Lunar and for me it was such a spiritual journey, was this a similar experience for you when you were actually writing and recording the album?
Yes, the intentions were to make it that way, a journey. Lunar was a journey more than any other work before as this one was much more personal which meant making it was as special as putting it out there. Lunar has a specific mood and space and I only recorded it at night, completely turning my working hours, but this experience of deep quiet and solitude are what makes it so special.
How does it feel to now have this EP released and out in the world after working on and developing it?
Amazing! These projects take time, sometimes months and often over a year. By the time all the creating and the preparations for release have been done it is almost a surprise when you see people listening to it and sharing it. With Lunar this still feels fresh but it’s always exciting to hear that people have enjoyed it.
Was there any particular inspiration behind the work as a whole?
The idea started as one song, When She Rises which was written before there was the idea of an EP. I wanted to explore the Moon as a metaphor for moments in life when things change, the slow rise of people as they slowly grow into the next steps of life, allowing time and forgiveness. The Moon is ever changing and each stage is unique but has beauty. That first song encouraged me to continue my exploration of the moon.
Was it always planned that this project would be highly spiritual or is it something that came naturally with the music?
I am very drawn to spiritual practice and have been my whole life. In the media spirituality is often portrayed as its own thing but I don’t feel there is much of a separation between daily life and spiritual practice. I am interested in how we live in an ordinary way but have a deep connection to ourselves and nature, spirituality as it is perceived is actually a very human quality. I am less interested in moving to spiritual practices that separate from the world, but am more drawn into the spirituality of nature and how sounds from nature can bring people to a natural relaxation.
There are a lot of traditional Irish sounds in Lunar and I’ve read that this was a big part of your upbringing. How important is it for you to embrace this in your music?
Yeah, very important! Over the last couple years I have been coming back to my Irish influence. I grew up mostly in the US but also a bit in Dublin and have lots of relatives there. It is part of my musical foundation. When I was around uni or late teens age I was very interested in folk music, I went to India to study their traditional folk music and love ambient folk music too. It’s important to me that I’ve now returned full circle, finding a personal depth, comfort and love in these sounds. When I come back from tour I often visit my local pub to perform traditional Irish music. I think music is so important for meditation and as a healing space as well as creating a community and joy and that community is so prominent in the Irish culture.
In When she Rises there is lots of natural imagery in the lyrics, with mentions of the moon and the waves used to support the overall message about letting things be and not letting things get on top of you. Is this message inspired by something in particular or is it just something you wanted to convey?
I hesitate to say too much about my own influences as I want people to approach it with their own ideas. The beginning of the song is actually inspired by my therapist, we often talk about dreams and I love the study of dreams and their symbolism. ‘There’s a wise, wise woman, Down the path to the sea, She’s been whispering, whispering stories to me’, that is about my therapist, that wise mentor figure. I think the song is directly about having those people and places and practices in your life to keep close to yourself when going through change; be with the people that keep you close to your soul. The images, ‘Take your boat to where the waters meet, Wait and see where the currents lead’ are from old Irish folklore about the island of Great Skellig, famous more recently for being in Star Wars! It was discovered by monks and I find it amazing that these monks could access this island which is just huge, tall pieces of rock. The story is that a magician tells them to simply make a boat and wait by the water, the monks fall asleep when waiting and when they wake up the current has drifted them to the island.
I find that actually really extraordinary as when I listened to the album I had these visions of being stood on a grassy cliff looking over the Irish sea, so the fact that it actually relates to that is amazing!
Wow, yeah, I find that music gives a sense, it is more than just a sound. There is such a deep feeling in music and it is magical that it can create images and space and feelings for people.
The work features two songs and two more atmospheric meditation pieces, what was the thinking behind setting the EP out in this way? Was this planned from the start or did it feel right when the work was all coming together?
It felt right, that’s really how the music came about and happened. The idea of a moon based project had been discussed with the head of the label who is a friend and often trusts some of my wacky ideas! It started with the intention of a meditation project but with the inspiration coming from When She Rises the head of the label said I couldn’t really not have that song in there. Even after that it was just going to be the one song then meditation pieces, but then late one night in the studio while waiting for something to export I wrote Dance of The Moon which came to me very quickly and easily.
You’ve already touched on your spirituality and meditation; how do you find it helps you?
It is so helpful to have a pause and can be magical to take intentional times to focus, sit and be. Spaciousness feels like giving a gift to yourself. It is so easy to have every moment of the day taken up with emails and texts and just constant information. Just to take some space away from that can cause a massive shift in my day. I find it helpful to have a separate space, even if just in a hotel room as a mat in the corner! Just having a space that makes you want to sit and be quiet, making the space beautiful and enticing, can be so helpful.
What do you hope that people feel or take from Lunar when they listen to it for the first time?
The biggest thing is to explore beauty in the darkness. Most spiritual music is so light, I really wanted to make meditative music about the moon to show people how rich those times of darkness are. There is beauty in dark and difficult times. There is also beauty in the wildness of nature and the moon, and beauty in the wildness of music. There is beauty in the fullness of us as people. I want listeners to feel themselves and their own stories in the project and to find inspiration in dark or wild places within themselves. With grief or depression or heartbreak it is hard in these moments to feel positivity. It’s not important to be positive about darkness but to let life carry us through those moments. Later we can look back at these moments and recognise that the moon comes up, life gives us hope and music is true and hopeful. The gentle rise of the moon shows us there is strength and possibility.
One of my favourite things about the album is all the beautiful textures that contribute to the unique overall sound, how did you achieve this effect?
As far as the textural elements I think it comes from that balance between solitude and doing alone time in the studio exploring sounds, a lot more than in most projects. I wanted solitude in creation so I could explore and experiment. It was important to record at night as I was more drawn to certain sounds. I also only had a select few collaborators on this album, those are friends who share a sense of subtlety in sound exploration. The difference in the process of this album created a unique sound. With Shadow Moon it was hard to remember where I was at times when recording it! There are so many interesting sounds in it, especially the use of water; we recorded raindrops but from underwater, we were looking for sounds that feel like depth. A shadow moon is new moon, it gives that feeling of total darkness and I wanted to show this as a place of comfort. It was really fun to make but we ended up with this 12 minute piece and I did wonder if people would listen and what they would think!
So to finish, could you name your Top 3 Mental Health Songs?
1. Akaal - Ajeet
2. When She Rises - Ajeet
3. Shadow Moon - Ajeet
Lunar is available to stream now!