The Soft-Focus Glow of Azure Ray.

Azure Ray’s Maria Taylor & Orenda Fink at Echoes

Hear Azure Ray talk about their music on Echoes Tuesday October 23.

The Dream Pop duo know as Azure Ray came into the Echoes Living Room yesterday and put on a breathless and enchanting performance playing music from their new CD, As Above So Below as well as some older songs including “November.”  Their’s is the music of hushed murmurs, whispered secrets, silent yearnings given fragile voice.   Their new CD takes a more minimal electronic approach than previous albums with hints of earlier Brian Eno, Gary Numan and a few more obscure electronic artists like Apparat, but the songs and voices have the same introspective spell as any of the music they’ve released

Azure Ray Live on Echoes

in the last 11 years.

Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink were childhood friends in Birmingham, Alabama where they grew up essentially listening to their parent’s record collections.   And in the case of Maria, her parents listened to Echoes on Birmingham’s WBHM-FM, so you might hear some of that influence as well.

The two musicians could’ve been conventional singer songwriters, plucking guitars and plunking piano, but since their debut album in 2001, there’s always been a richness to their arrangements that perfectly matched the wrap-around harmonies of their voices.  Although going electronic, Azure Ray performs their music live.  Maria and Orenda strap on guitars and play keyboards and are joined by cellist/bassist Heather McIntosh (another Echoes listener on WUGA, Athens, GA) and Andy LeMaster on keyboards, guitar and bass.  LeMaster, who also co-produced the album and along with Todd Fink, Orenda’s husband and member of the electronica band, The Faint, brought the electronic arrangements to As Above So Below.   Only some of the rudimentary rhythms pump out from a laptop.

Azure Ray with John Diliberto on Echoes

In the list of “Saddest Songs Ever,” Azure Ray’s “November” has to be near the top.  For most of us, it’s a song of loss and broken relationships, because that’s the universality that Maria Taylor brought to the writing and performance.  But the story she shared on Echoes is far more tragic.   But that same level of hopeless hope can be found in songs like “”Scattered Like Leaves,” only now their serene vocals have a dark, throbbing electronic undertow.

And if you think their vocals are quiet on CD, you should hear what it’s like once I took my headphones off.  Maria and Orenda, like a lot of modern singers,  are barely above a whisper in voices that would be inaudible without microphones and amplification.

Although the two women rock out on their solo albums, when they come together as Azure Ray, it’s like they’ve entered a warm and safe cocoon where the deepest emotions and most hurtful pain can be released.

Azure Ray’s Echoes Living Room Concert to broadcast on October 8, and a very deep interview to run later.

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

For further review: Here’s a nice piece on their Philly show last night with some great shots from WXPN’s The Key and John Vettese.

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  4 comments for “The Soft-Focus Glow of Azure Ray.

  1. I just wanted to point out an incorrect bit of information in this article–their debut album was released in 2001, not 2011.

  2. Is the interview available yet? I was sick and couldn’t try to listen on the 8th if it was played over radio. Thanks so much- looking forward to it!

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