Agaaze makes chill electro-pop on 'A Portal Inside' 

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Rochester native Agathya Visveswaran studied classical and jazz guitar at Hochstein School of Music and Eastman Community Music School, respectively, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from his new album “A Portal Inside.” Creating pop soundscapes under the moniker Agaaze, Visveswaran has transformed himself into an electronic maestro.

Another unlikely reality is that “A Portal Inside” harkens back to the pop music of the ’90s — an era in which the 19-year-old Visveswaran hadn’t yet been born. The seven-track album is a reverb-laden dance soundtrack to an imagined underground Club Kids party.

Each track is consistently mid-tempo and vaguely psychedelic. The lyrics are shrouded in a smoky haze, but words take a backseat to the vibe at all times. It’s as if EDM took a chill pill. The result is an odd yet satisfying blend of rave music and trip-hop.

Released on Dec. 24, “A Portal Inside” begins with “Day Dreaming,” a song propelled by chunky funk synthesizer and programmed hand claps that sound cheesy on paper but cook on the sound system.

Of all the songs, “Tidal Waves” is the fastest and most energy-packed. Despite the shimmer of swirling keyboards and the insistently buzzing bass line, it’s Visveswaran’s smooth-jazz guitar solo that proves to be the tastiest.

By the time the album closes with “Enter the Portal,” the vocal melodies have worn thin and repetitious, but the pop arrangements lose none of their luster. A simple four-chord progression provides compositional stability as the rhythm shifts underneath with mercurial syncopations that recall both ’80s dance aesthetics and 2000’s hip-hop.

Agaaze’s “A Portal Inside” is a precocious debut album. Visveswaran has a natural affinity for thoughtful pop textures that suggest a sophisticated sound design hiding beneath the electronic sheen. I’m already eager to hear what he produces next.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at [email protected].
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