As Above So Below
Author: Mike Shanley
For their new EP, Azure Ray wanted to take a different approach to their hazy pop. So Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, the dual Rays with the dreamy voices, solicited the help of Fink's husband Todd (of the electronica band the Faint) and Andy LeMasters (who played with both women in Now It's Overhead and has toured in Bright Eyes). The resulting EP still bears a passing resemblance to Azure Ray's 2010 album Drawing Down the Moon, but the backgrounds are much more synth-heavy. While the last album also featured a drum machine, the instrument's beats sounds bigger this time, like they're being transmitted across the universe. It complements the underlying melancholy tone or delivery of the lyrics, which feature Fink and Taylor singing "There's love everywhere/ there's sadness everywhere/ so I keep moving" in opener "Scattered Like Leaves." The minimal pulsing keyboards behind the drowsy harmonies might actually add to the tragic feeling but the arrangement also makes the duo sound a little less idiosyncratic this time out.
Sometimes it's easy to overlook a somewhat annoying loop. The disembodied "ahh" vocal used in "Red Balloon" really retains the essence of a pop chorus amidst the electronic backdrop. But the slowing-down synth bass line of "Unannounced" sounds more like a hungry stomach, and simply gets in the way. At 21 minutes, these six songs come off like a moderately successful experiment, but an entire album might have been too much of a challenge to sustain.
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / MP3