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Azure Ray
As Above So Below
Saddle Creek Records
www.azureraymusic.com


This new 6-song EP from the always wonderful and beautiful Azure Ray finds the ladies exploring textures crafted almost entirely from synthesizers and electronics. The dreaminess and majesty of the music remains what the listener would expect, but the soundscape is a touch sparser and less organic. The voices of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, however, have not changed; they remain stunningly beautiful in their harmonic interplay. The duo enlisted the help of Andy LeMaster and Todd Fink for the production of the EP, and while the overall atmospheric sound of classic Azure Ray continues, it is in a somewhat different vein.

"Scattered Like Leaves" is a perfect opening track, filled with low beats and cascading synthesizers at once airy and earthy… if that is at all possible. The vocals float over this bed of texture nicely as they proclaim, "There's love everywhere. There's sadness everywhere. So I keep moving on." That sentiment foreshadows much of the lyrical content of As Above So Below, which tends to deal with the themes of birth and rebirth… no surprise, as Taylor was 8 months pregnant when the recording was happening. "Unannounced" is a weirdly backwards-forward sounding tune, atmospheric and lightly encumbered with the story of a missed love and the escape from all that that love encompassed. "The Heart Has Its Reasons" is the clear exception on this collection of songs. Piano and the sound of the sea are almost the only legible sounds accompanying the angelic voices as they weave their tapestry of wanting and questioning and yearning.

As Above So Below finds Azure Ray in fine form. The more organic instrumentation of their earlier work gives way to adventurous use of synthesizers and electronics, but in no way does this change of sound detract from the beauty put forth by the voices held within. Instead, those voices stand out even more in the stark, somewhat ambivalent, electronic landscape. The ladies of Azure Ray continue to define aural beauty in their own way, easily holding fast the listener in thrall for the duration of the EP.

-Embo Blake

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