Thana Alexa's voice contains a world of sound, and that is without even mentioning the globe-spanning musical trappings which surround it. Hearing her is like watching a thunderstorm or maybe a wild hawk in flight. She doesn't just sing but uses her voice as an expressive precision instrument, in much the same way all the tones and electronics here are sculpted into an unclassifiably genre-defying whole. Her rich contralto can also be honey-smooth and soothing in the (relatively) rare calm moments here among the rumblings. However, ONA is a work concerned with big issues and ideas and so, for the most part, it demands nothing less than the earth-shaking force of nature.
If that sounds a bit hyperbolic, it is no less than Alexa's talent and ambition deserve. The title means "she" in Croatian (a straight line to her native roots), and this affair often boils red-hot with feminine energythe deep earth-mother kind that makes mere "girl power" sound silly. The opening title track sets the theme in a chant both primal and beautiful. The rhythmic core remains one of ONA's strongest elements, joined with the juicy electricity of jazz fusion, a dynamic flow as wild as a rollercoaster, and the universal power of the human voice always at the center.
Alexa sings about struggle and revolution in some spots, intimate personal experiences in others, and always with deep emotion and blunt honesty through them all. Listeners who want thematic subtlety are better off looking elsewhere. Love and grief are portrayed up close in vivid shades. When the feminist themes arise, they are pounded out in fullout "I am woman, hear me roar" glory (no kidding, she uses those exact words at one point, and even that particular cliche sounds powerful with such genuine passion behind it).
Several pieces are epic mini-journeys in themselves. The worldly "Pachamama" sets out with breezy piano and soon builds to a swooping violin solo over crashing waves. Massive Attack's "Teardrop" gets deconstructed and rebuilt with layered chants and a guitar-solo crescendo good for some goosebumps. With "The Resistance" it is jungle rhythm with smoky electric keys and a burning protest-rally shout; "Cassandra" grooves hard with wild jazz piano verging on chaos. Each turn goes somewhere new and surprising. ONA doesn't just reflect the confusion and anger of life in its particular moment; this is music that fiercely stands up and meets it with uncompromising boldness and truth.
ONA; The Resistance; Pachamama; Set Free; You Taught Me; Teardrop; Cassandra; He Said She Said; Animal Instinct; Everybody Wants to Rule the World.
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