I seem to be on an electronic music kick lately, and today I’m pleased to present another artist making interesting and innovative music in that broad genre – Los Angeles-based John Rojas. The singer-songwriter, engineer, producer and multi-instrumentalist has been a fixture on the L.A. music scene for more than a decade as part of techno-punk band MACHINEKIT (originally founded as Dharma in 2012), whose 2022 album I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND I reviewed nearly a year ago, as well as his work with the bands La Bella, Brainfreeze and Badmouth. He created his own recording studio MachineHouse Audio in 2020, and if all that’s not enough, he’s also a terrific writer who does reviews for the website Tourworthy.
In late 2022, Rojas decided to start recording music as a solo artist, and released a two track electronic instrumental EP IN THE THICK OF IT last December. Now he returns with his second EP Amongst The Glass Trees, featuring four new electronic tracks in which he further explores his love for electronics and composition, creating a raw sense of overwhelming tension in the process. As I alluded to earlier, he’s a talented wordsmith with a gift for describing his music in much greater detail and with more colorful language than I possibly could, so I’ll simply quote his own words about the new EP:
“The sequential trip across the instrumental tracks needs no vocals to convey their lyrical and poetic content as the dark ambient tones submit to elegant arpeggiations layered over earworm bass throbs, and succumb to minimalist piano hiding underneath the skittering programmed beats. This EP is split into four-parts as it embraces vicious modalities that indirectly illustrate the fundamental theme of confusion. The only semblance of the subject is the name of each track that surreptitiously creates one elaborate, yet ambiguous sentence to pose as animated thesis. This four-piece epic is an ambivalent mood changer that non-verbally tells the tale of a lonely man lost within the chaos of fake love, while being influenced by his own skepticism and vanity.”
The EP opens with the title track, which starts off tentatively, slowly building with a subtle throbbing synth bass groove overlain with glitches and bleeps, accompanied by occasional gentle guitar strums. At around two minutes, they’re joined by more pronounced sharp percussive sounds as the track evolves into a fully-formed, dissonant soundscape of otherworldly synths, snappy drumbeats and wobbly bass. Late in the track, the music turns more melodic with the addition of haunting piano keys as we transition into “Inside The Rabbit Hole”. A gentle pulsating groove ensues, punctuated by distant horn-like sounds and occasional jarring blasts of harsh alarm-like sounds, giving a sense of impending danger ahead. Halfway into the track, the tempo increases to a near-frantic pace as the industrial synths become darker and more harsh. Everything comes to a dramatic climax as Rojas adds a heavy percussive EDM beat for the final minute of the track.
The third and fourth tracks – “Lovers Paradise Is” and “An Ocean Full of Brains” – are a sort of couplet with a strong Nine Inch Nails vibe. “Lovers Paradise Is” starts off with a quick, head-bopping beat overlain with more of those trippy glitches and bleeps, which are eventually joined by hypnotic pulsating synths that lend a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Around the three-minute mark, some lovely keyboard synths are added as the tempo calms a bit. The music immediately segues into “An Ocean Full of Brains”, which has a more relaxed, introspective vibe, though the glitchy reverb, ominous synths and rather unsettling piano keys still convey an edgy undercurrent. Halfway into the track, the tempo increases to a EDM dance beat as the droning, glitchy synths continue. The tempo calms down in the final minute of the track as the music gradually fades away, leaving us feeling relieved yet still somewhat uneasy.
With Amongst The Glass Trees, John Rojas has created a darkly beautiful and brilliant little masterpiece. In its 20-minute-long run time, he takes us through a sonic journey that’s both beautiful and bleak, filled with an arresting array of sounds and textures to startle our senses and waken our imagination.
The EP artwork was designed by longtime collaborator, graphic designer Jaydee Perales at Wire Mark Design Studio.
Find John’s music on Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud