One of the more prominent bands on the so-called Psychedelphia scene (best known for producing Bardo Pond and the Lilys), Aspera — initially dubbed Aspera Ad Astra — evolved from a noisy space rock group into a dreamier, more electronic outfit. Formed in Philadelphia in 1996, the original Aspera Ad Astra lineup featured lead vocalist/keyboardist Mike Robinson, guitarist/keyboardist Justin Tripp, guitarist Drew Worth, bassist Matt Werth, and drummer Drew Mills. Their name came from a Latin phrase in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which translates roughly as “reach for the stars. ” Their early influences included space rock both old (Pink Floyd) and new, as well as classic ’70s prog rock and British shoegaze bands, especially My Bloody Valentine. Following a split single with Haelah, this lineup released a debut album, Peace, in 1998 on the small and short-lived label Audio Information Phenomena. A drastic lineup shuffling followed; Mills stepped out front to take over lead vocals, also picking up guitar in place of Worth, while Robinson became a backup vocalist and concentrated on keyboards. A succession of temporary drummers paraded through the ranks; 1999’s Winged With Rhymes EP, recorded for Insound, had Chris Powell filling that slot. In 2000, the band issued a split EP with Lilys on Tiger Style, and later found a permanent skinsman in the person of A.J. Edmiston. Mike Robinson, however, left the group to concentrate on his education.