“Back When Love” (btv047)
Buy Online | one-sided LP
|I first met the members of Aspera back in 1998 when they were called Aspera Ad Astra. I hosted the album release party for their first album, Peace, on Marc Bianchi’s (Her Space Holiday) label Audio Information Phenomena. This was in the years of “psychedelphia” hype, but their particular brand of heavily affected psychedelic space rock and electronic experimentation flew under the radar for far too many people during their existence. The band had formed in 1996 after bassist Matt Werth moved to Philadelphia, relocating his label at the time (File 13 Records) and joining up with Justin Tripp (guitar/keyboard), Drew Mills (drums), Drew Worth (guitar) and Mike Robinson (vocals/keyboards) to form the band. The original name was Latin for “to the stars through difficulties” that came from Joyce’s Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man and also a phrase inscribed on the plaque to commemorate the Apollo One spacecraft fire (as well as the title of a Stars of the Lid record in late 1998). Tree Records issued a debut split 7″ as a split on their Postmarked Stamp Series with Haleah that also featured Bianchi.
In mid-1999, the band recorded the Winged with Rhymes ep for Insound’s Tour Support series with Mills taking over vocal duties from Robinson. They recorded a split ep with Philadelphia’s Lilys, incorporating permanent drummer A.J. Edmiston and Robinson left the band. The band shortened their name to Aspera, marking their newer denser, lush direction. They released Sugar & Feathered in 2001, which was produced by Michael Deming (The Lilys) and initially released by Big Wheel Recreation. In early 2002, the band released their Birds Fly ep for Suicide Squeeze and was a bit of a departure, experimenting with layers and layers of keyboards.
Bloomington’s Jagjaguwar later re-issued Sugar & Feathered and released 2003’s Oh Fantastica, the band’s final full-length. Oh Fantastica was produced by King Honey (who had worked with MF Doom) and Philadelphia’s J. S. Process and resulted in a more layered, electronic pop sound for the band.