Saturday, 27 November 2010

REVIEW: Azure Ray - Drawing Down The Moon

Saddle Creek mainstays Azure Ray had been unobtrusively releasing poignant, beautiful indie-folk around the turn of the century, rarely gaining more than the approving nod 
of a few well-placed critics and those familiar with the label's consistently intriguing output. After a significant hiatus and quite some time in the making, new album Drawing Down the Moon spans the years to bring the band back into the indie consciousness.

Gentle intro Wake Up, Sleepyhead sets the tone for what is to be a contemplative record, easing into the hopeful melancholy of Don't Leave My Mind. Having drawn attention to this release in the first instance a couple of months back, it sounds just as understatedly cathartic here, set alongside similarly genteel moments. In The Fog follows to demonstrate this, a hazier recollection of a special someone with a glitchy static swelling underneath the distant vocal, lending the enveloped quality aimed at in the title. 

MP3: Azure Ray
Don't Leave My Mind
Taken from the new album Drawing Down The Moon, out now - BUY

Buy it at Insound!

Larraine adds no more tempo, resting on a simple acoustic guitar and minimal percussion, with the wistful voices rising in and out of the quiet as the delicate lyrics require. On and On Again resurrects the optimism once more, furtively questioning its subject: "And if I could give this a shot, could you? / A safe to place our trust into". The lyrics line up with the uncertain hope of the light strings and growing confidence of the rippling cymbals, making for a pleasant change of mood within that same delicate, humble demeanour. 

By this point it should be fairly clear that Azure Ray make their point with subtle nudges and nods, not overt gestures and outbursts. Make Your Heart builds patiently as a case in point, adding small guitar flourishes and augmented vocal harmonies little by little yet always moving towards the intended destination. These aren't songs that will sweep you off your feet, but they charm and soothe their way into your conciousness for a memorable listen all the same. 

Not every song on Drawing Down the Moon offers the lingering beauty of its highlights but they do mesh together to form a fully formed, quietly confident sound, over the course of the album. As such, there isn't really any filler here, more passages for reflection, helping contextualise what's come before. Further in, though, the contemplative worry of Signs In the Leaves and  the confused regret to be found within Shouldn't Have Loved's almost Fleetwod Mac-like tones. 

Without blowing listeners out of the water, Drawing Down the Moon entices us into the soulful reflection of the the Fink/Taylor world, examining the buried memories of lost love and the potential for its redemption. Above the hushed indie/country-tinged acoustic guitar, feather light percussion, and the occasional electronic touch, the subtely potent harmonies of the singers inquire and guide in equal measure, to beautiful effect. 

Whatever it might lack in immediate punch, Azure Ray's newest work compensates for in genuinely addictive replay value. It's a grower in the classic sense of long term album favourites, and should inch the band just that little bit further along the dusty road to wider recognition. 

Sometimes it's just as much fun to sit back and take in the scenery. 

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