01/21/2002 | Unknown | Album Review
Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, collectively known as Azure Ray, have mastered the art of prettiness. The duo's debut self-titled LP (released on Athens' Warm Electronic Recordings) was mainly comprised of non-climaxing, slow-tempo songs filled with ethereal harmonies backed by finger-picked acoustic guitars, drum loops and layered keyboards.

One problem: after a while, the formula wears thin, as prettiness can only get one so far.

Azure Ray's latest effort, November, doesn't break much new ground, but it shows signs of development in terms of varying tempos, new instrumentation, and dynamic variation. The addition of Kera Schaley's cello is an appropriate extension of Azure Ray's sound and provides a somber foil to the sparse finger picking and voice arrangement of the EP-opener, "November." On "No Signs Of Pain," chugging beats and acoustic strumming with (what sounds like) steel drum form a soundtrack to a long Greyhound bus ride back to the town the passenger was relieved to leave in the first place. Melancholy and ever-growing in its immediacy, the song sounds as if the bus is drawing closer to the station throughout the track.

The final three tracks of November revert to the formula of the twosome's earlier work. The sounds are certainly pretty, but "Just A Faint Line" and the slow-as-a-Merchant Ivory-filmfest "I Will Do These Things" do the EP's other tracks little justice. Hopefully, the hints dropped during the first half of November portend a broadening of Azure Ray's horizons to songs not dependent solely on angelic vocal harmonies. Only time will tell. (P.O. Box 1423, Athens, GA 30603)


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