(19 August 2012) Azure Ray is an American dream pop duo comprised of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor originally from Birmingham, Alabama. The have recorded since 2001, with four albums and five EPs to date. The duo disbanded in 2004 to pursue solo careers but reformed in 2008 for a live performance and the album Drawing Down The Moon in 2010. Azure Ray remain together and have moved their sound forward in the six track EP entitled As Above So Below (Saddle Creek (USA) 032, 2012). The EP runs for a bit over 21 minutes.
During their sabbatical from Azure Ray, the artists have released a batch of solo projects. Orenda Fink released Invisible Ones (review) to broad acclaim in 2005 and followed up with the 2009 project Ask The Night. Maria Taylor has released five albums to date beginning the 2005 self-titled 11:11 album (review). She followed up almost annually with new solo projects: Lynn Teeter Flower (2007), Savannah Drive (2008), LadyLuck (2009), and Overlook (2011).
Long-term enthusiasts will hear a clear evolution of the band's sound in the new release. While the music is still full of heart wrenching and sensual vocal work, the arrangements are more electronic, with some tracks evoking allusions to Balligomingo, Delerium and Conjure One. And it works well from the percussion laden and dreamy first song "Scattered Like Leaves." The recording progresses almost seamlessly into "Red Baloon," a gorgeous track whose soothing vocal harmonies are backed with lush electronic arrangements and crisp percussion.
Orenda Fink described the release as "Azure Ray in an alternate universe." The product description notes that Fink's bandmate Maria Taylor was eight months pregnant during he recording process and this inspired "themes of alternative universes, Mother Nature, beginnings, endings, and re-birth [to] surface in the songs."
A variety of electronic effects add to the texture of "Unannounced," whose torch ballad lyric works alright with the arrangement. The drum and bass backdrop to the downtempo "To This Life" provides a further illlustration of the duo's venture into electronica. Lush and warm vocal harmonies clearly delivery the Azure Ray sound. "The Heart Has Its Reasons" is a more traditionally arranged love song. The ballad is sung atop a gentle piano melody with very light percussion while warm keyboard washes and atmospheric effects add texture to accentuate short passages. The harmnies are tops.
As Above So Below concludes with the lush standout track "We Could Wake." Most richly arranged of the collection, the song is destined to draw even more enthusiasts to Azure Ray.
We're glad that Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor are working together as Azure Ray and this rather short release makes us even more eager for their next installment.