Drawing Down the Moon
Author: Ste Grindrod
"# Am I making something worthwhile out of this place? #" asks Maria Taylor on Displaced, taken from Azure Ray's eponymous debut of ten years ago. This question could be appropriated to the situation tonight in the mostly empty, apparently refurbished Ruby Lounge (I don't come here often enough, nor pay attention to spot any noticeable differences). A terribly underrated group, there are only fifty or sixty people in attendance tonight, which is quite sad for the band, as well as for those missing out, but great for us who did make it. A perfect, unobstructed view of what turns out to be an excellent show. The answer to Taylor's question is a resounding, definite, Yes.On the back of their first record since 2003, Azure Ray return to play this continent for the first time in seven years. The stage is extremely bright throughout as Taylor and Orenda Fink are accompanied by a drummer, a bassist and a cellist-cum-keyboardist. The early part of their set is mostly taken from that new record, Drawing Down The Moon, from the persistent, Celtic sounding set opener Make Your Heart, through the single Don't Leave My Mind which yearns for escape, to Larraine, whose plaintive delicate music is juxtaposed with guileless lyrics about child abuse.Their soft, almost whispered vocals are as beautiful live as they are on record, and they play music you actually want to hug; their songs being big cosy, warm clouds, suiting the venue with its meagre crowd tonight. The sparse audience makes for an empty atmosphere at times, and the band are timid to begin with. Their between song chat blossoms though as the show goes on, discussing drinks spillages, US/UK cultural differences, and Maria's desire to have seven children. Aged 34, she currently has none, ambition which is reflected in their music.Displaced is particularly impressive in its orchestral beauty, but rather than being a typical heartbreak song, the lyrics are more homosocial, with Taylor singing "# She's my friend of friends/She's still here when everyone's gone/She doesn't have to say a thing #". Is she singing to Fink? The female-female pairing front stage may suggest so. The duo, whether through their press shots or their intimate music, have always given the impression of being a close, tight-knit union, and their dual vocals and slightly shy personas reinforce this notion tonight.More orchestral highlights are provided by the honest On and On Again, and the elegiac November, while the ambient dream pop of Sleep is also very special, with opening line "# Fill these spaces up with days #" evoking an even bigger sense of uselessness when delivered with the pair's deadpan, spoken vocals. "# Let's sing and we'll fill the air/With melodies that blend together #" they sing during If You Fall toward the end of the night.If there's a lyric to sum Azure Ray up, this is it. For those unfamiliar with them, I can only recommend in abundance and advise that one perseveres with their records. I sincerely hope it isn't another seven years until they return to these parts.