Aspera is in fact, a revamped version of the Philadelphia shoegazing indie rock group Aspera Ad Astra, minus their old lead singer. The group still makes dreamy pop, but it feels considerably more orchestral, percussive, and neo-psychedelic these days.
Aspera Ad Astra lost an integral part of their group when lead singer and guitarist Mike Robinson departed to focus on school and life, so they decided to reflect the change in the group's configuration by truncating their name. Aspera's dreamy neo-psychedelia will undoubtedly remind plenty of listeners of the old group, but if Aspera Ad Astra's chief inspiration was My Bloody Valentine guitar great Kevin Shields, Aspera's is producer wunderkind Dave Fridmann, architect of the ethereal yet thunderous sounds of Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. New singer Drew Mills's plaintive reedy whine and nursery rhyme lyricism suits this new environment of spooky keyboard washes and enormous fuzzy drums. Aspera's first LP under the new lineup, 2001's Sugar & Feathered, is a gorgeous experimental pop opus with shades not only of the above-mentioned bands, but also of Pink Floyd'sPiper at the Gates of Dawn, Brian Eno'sTaking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), and the prog classics of the '70s.
The group followed with the Birds Fly EP on Suicide Squeeze Records in the spring of 2002. Here Aspera began to utilize more '80s electronic rhythms and a starker, slightly schizophrenic production style that would be a precursor to their 2003 album, Oh Fantastica. The Jagjaguwar Records release shows that Aspera's affection for electronic beats have never been stronger; meanwhile Mills's acid vocals have never been as potent, thanks to help from producers King Honey and J. SProcess. The entire group seems to have reached a creative destination on Oh Fantastica, one of the year's most creative and best produced albums.