Reviews

Hold On Love

Author: Joan Anderman
11/19/2003 | Boston Globe | www.globe.com | Live Show Preview
Azure Ray At: the Middle East, Friday CAMBRIDGE - A boisterous nightclub is
a
tough place for two frail, dark girls to sing songs so radically delicate
that
the toot of a harmonica arrives with the force of a volcanic eruption.
Still,
singer-guitarists Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor - the dream-pop duo known as
Azure Ray - forged bravely through 40 minutes of sonic gauze, accompanied
occasionally by a trio and perpetually by the din of clubgoers at the
Middle
East Friday night.


Azure Ray requires a willing audience; nothing about the songs' deathly
pace
and misty moods would capture the ear of a passerby. The music is murmured
-
guitar strings stroked with a fingertip, phantom notes from a keyboard
materializing and vaporizing into nothingness, words passing without
inflection. Fink and Taylor breathe melodies. Their translucent harmonies
rise
and fall without any discernible expression, producing a sound that's
unencumbered by the conventional powers of persuasion and songs that seem
more
like offerings than entertainment.


Perhaps if the show had been set in an intimate space filled with the
converted, Azure Ray's live show would have been magical. As it was, the
concert felt like a losing battle. Dressed head to toe in black and nearly
motionless on stage, the pair performed songs from this year's "Hold on
Love,"
put out by the noted Nebraska indie label Saddle Creek Records, and two
earlier
discs. Both Fink and Taylor have been part of Omaha's revolving Bright Eyes
collective, led by Conor Oberst, and their music is rooted in the same
strange,
artful blend of wonder and melancholy.


"Displaced," from the duo's 2001 self-titled debut, demonstrated how
deceptively gentle desolation can sound. "Beautiful Things Can Come From
the
Dark" - released on a Saddle Creek compilation this year - perfectly
distilled
Azure Ray's curiously powerful way of teasing light and color out of the
bleak
recesses. Anywhere else a simple piano trill would have amounted to simple
shading; here it was a technicolor rainbow.


"This is a real quiet one," Fink announced to the oblivious, chattering
masses.
Most of them had no idea that music was even being played. The several
dozen
pressed against the stage, however, were graced by the ethereal force of
"November," a song whose loveliness was so darkly hushed one practically
had to
reach out to hear it.
Hold On Love

Hold On Love

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