Azure Ray
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Azure Ray


Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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"Drowned in Sound: Hold on Love Album Review"

"...the break of dawn and our hearts are racing, move on, move on, no there's nothing changing..."

Whatever became of all the broken-hearted story tellers? Did being talked to by the TV for our entire childhood really kill our ability to talk back about how we really feel? If it wasn’t for those folks at Saddle Creek - producing soundtracks to the shy techno-trapped worlds of noughties indie-kids - the answer would be a doe-eyed, mumbled, 'yes'. But praise be to the Omaha music scene.

Azure Ray** ain’t the kinda band who run into your life, pin you down and thrust you about until you can’t sweat or scream anymore. This is something altogether much sweeter and sorta asexual. Not that everything comes down to primal urges, you understand, but female vocals always tickle the sex parts of my brain. ’Hold on Love’ is the laid-bare type of record that wanders past you, all hair flowing in the breeze and knowing pouts; too much of a perfect stranger to ever want to get to know her, to risk knowing her favourite flick is ‘The Goonies’, and that she farts in bed. Distance is pleasure, but it’s also pain. Risk does not always equal happiness.

"...if you see these tears fill in my eyes, it’s just the wind that makes me cry."

This is not a record of ballads for emo fans. Please, keep to your backpacks and pop-metal riffs. This album is a collection of proper songs. Pianos that tip-toe on the Mazzy Star/Sparklehorse precipice and mourn for the days when Elton John wasn’t such a diva. Drums, which keep your head swaying in time. Strings and electronic twinges make up the rest of it, but it’s all about the willowy vocals.

What else do you need to know? They’ve written songs with Moby and Conor Oberst. This is their fourth album. ’The Drinks We Drank Lastnight’_ is bound to be on a Dawsons Creek soundtrack near you, soon. Everyone breaks wind in their sleep.

Seek and caress. - Drowned In Sound

""Azure Ray" Album Review"

Azure Ray released their self-titled debut in the heart of January. They couldn't have chosen a better time. The freshness of a new year surrounds us, as does the inevitability of the winter season. Here in New England, snow-covered landscapes, crisply cold skies, and naked trees adorn this time of year. And despite the thrill of a fresh start, it's probably the most depressing-looking season. However, this is all from a New Englander's eye. Down in Georgia, where Azure Ray were based at the time of their first album, I'm sure winter is a different entity altogether. And they have managed to twist together the Georgian winter with the New England winter, creating a record of both cold and warm extremes.

Despite this meshing, Azure Ray is a sparse record, that feels like winter regardless of the temperature. Gorgeous opener "Sleep" begins and ends with twinkling piano and a catchy subtle synth line in the background. "Fill these spaces up with days / In my room you can go you can stay," Maria Taylor sings, sounding as sad as the sub-zero musical cocoon surrounding her voice. Orenda Fink's voice subtly harmonizes in the chorus, creating one of the prettiest songs these ladies have ever recorded. And even though they seem so good at creating these cold tunes, a few songs (the twangy "4th of July," or the heated and glacial pace of "Fever") sound as warm as the state in which the girls grew up.

The second track is quite the opposite from the opener. "Displaced" is a tender acoustic ballad, with some of the best lyrics on the album ("She's my friend of all friends / She's still here, everyone's gone / She doesn't have to say a thing / We'll just keep laughing all night long"). It's a relatable acoustic pop song; the feel of which is never recreated, and is actually quickly canceled out by Fink's gloomy, creepy "Don't Make a Sound," which is complete with constant vinyl scratching and siren-like noises. Fink does a good job at setting a tone, and is successful every time.

In fact, it's Orenda Fink's tunes that I like the most in this record. "Another Week" is a beautiful piano ballad, with the most clever and inventive harmonies on the disc, which are layered, effected, and buried under the main line. "Safe and Sound" is the most tender moment, and is also one of the few hopeful tunes here. "Could you be the one to find me safe and sound?" Fink asks, over a bed of gentle acoustic strumming. Another standout is the 5 and a half minute "Rise," which is a well-paced song about the effects of drugs or other substances in a relationship. The power of the words is enough to carry the song, which is why it's given the most subtle cloud of synths as the main musical weapon.

There surely are missteps here. "Fever" is a bit too slowpaced to be too accessible, and as a result will have many listeners skip to the next one before it's over. "For No One," has some great, poppy quick guitar work, which is exactly why it doesn't fit into the languidness and litheness of the other songs. At least "How Will You Survive" has a nice vocal line from Fink and a cool recurring synth twinkle, and contains a satisfying climactic end.

This isn't an album for everyone. It's slow, cold, and somber, (even the 30 second untitled instrumental interlude resembles distraught yelps). Also, each track gracefully rolls into the next, without much eventfulness. Despite that though, each track is its own, unique from the one before or after it. This is what makes Azure Ray such a satisfying listen. It's easy to listen to, and carefully constructed to try and be appealing to the mind and heart. And it succeeds.

- Sputnik Music

"Azure Ray Debut Album Review"

Azure Ray is an Athens, GA, duo composed of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor; their self-titled debut album is a quiet, gentle set of lovely songs that doesn't fit neatly into any current pigeonhole. Both women have contributed to more well-known projects -- both have played in the ever-changing Bright Eyes touring band and Fink has played with the interesting Japancakes instrumental ensemble (but she didn't hint at the sort of lovely and emotional soul-searching found on Azure Ray). Produced by Eric Bachmann (aka Crooked Fingers and former Archers of Loaf frontman), the record is delicate walk through a dark world of relationships. Bachmann seems to contribute atmosphere more than anything (although the saxophone on "Don't Make a Sound" could've come right from his Barry Black project), allowing the two singer/songwriters to stretch sadly around melancholy melodies. The album's best songs are the most sad; their pain is our very distinct pleasure. - All Music

"Debut Album Review by Fake Jazz"

Azure Ray - s/t
Remember the scenes in Twin Peaks at the Roadhouse when Julee Cruise would sing haunting, gloomy songs. This is perhaps the best comparison to Azure Ray's music. Similar to Angelo Badalamenti's music from Twin Peaks, the songs are dark and moody, sounding equally influenced by New Wave pop and Midwestern Americana. Atop this are incredibly soft female vocals, sounding so light and airy that it contrasts with the music, giving the music's morose feeling a pop aura.

Azure Ray is the duo of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor who led the Geffen-signed Belly-sound-alike Little Red Rocket and have made guest appearances with Bright Eyes and Japancakes. Their self-titled debut was produced and arranged by Eric Bachmann of Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers who gives the spare music a deceptively layered sound. The music is so low and thin that it is easy to miss a lap steel, singing saw, or saxophone lurking in the background--attention is needed to appreciate the arrangement, much more so than Bachmann's recent outstanding solo work.

Fink and Taylor's sound has moved far away from the indie pop of their previous band and closer to singer-songwriter material similar to Bachmann's Crooked Fingers, Bright Eyes, Cat Power, and Edith Frost. Their lyrics, however, haven't seemed to have changed as much. They are well done, but, like pop, they seem to be more focused on metaphor than meaning, and the emotion of the songs suffers from that.

Adding to this distraction from the emotion of the songs is the quality of the vocals. The vocals are quite pretty with Fink and Taylor singing co-lead but sounding as one, but this contrast between the vocals and the dark sound and subject matter seems to negate the emotion of the songs. You could call me sexist, and perhaps you'd be right. However, I have the feeling if Marshall or Frost were to sing these songs with their earthier, grittier voices, I would hang on every word instead of letting the airy quality of the delivery cause the words and meaning to float away. With Fink and Taylor's more feminine voices, I'm so wrapped up in listening to the sound, I can't hear the words. Perhaps more needs to be done lyrically to emphasize the emotion of the prose.

Despite this, Azure Ray's music is enjoyable. Their debut album is best appreciated as minimal, pretty pop music, and in that arena, it fairs rather well. -

"Burn and Shiver Review"

The girls of Azure Ray, Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, are pretty busy these days. In addition to putting out their own records, they've spent the past few years as touring members of Bright Eyes, and contributing vocals to lots of various and sundry records, not the least of which being Moby's latest, 18.

Listening to the fragile, electronic tinged acoustic music that the two purvey on Burn and Shiver, their second full-length release, it's almost impossible to believe that at one point, the vehicle for their songs was a four-piece rock band. Yet it's true: Fink and Taylor introduced themselves to the world back in 1997 with Who Did You Pay, their band Little Red Rocket's debut. Plying a brand of alterna-rock that was quite familiar to anyone who's ever heard Belly or the Throwing Muses, LRR were good, but not great. The band eventually got signed to Geffen, but was subsequently dropped before they had even begun recording on their sophomore release.

In the meantime, Fink and Taylor banded together with some other like-minded musicians and brought out an entirely new band, Azure Ray, whose self-titled debut proceeded to garner much more attention and positive press than Little Red Rocket ever did. And with good reason: Azure Ray presented the pair's voices in as unadulterated a fashion as possible, all breathy and sighing and dreamy. Eric Bachmann's (Crooked Fingers, ex-Archers of Loaf) intimate production touches and subtle use of electronic beds made the record just that much more appealing.

Bachmann returns to produce Burn and Shiver, which adds to the seamless transition between the two records. Not a lot has changed this time around -- Taylor and Fink still croon and sigh as demurely as ever, and the instrumental backing is as subtle and insinuating as ever. Songs like "How You Remember", with its subtle horns and vaguely Morricone-ish guitars, and "The New Year", with its electronics pushed up a little further in the mix than they have been before, are examples of hoe Azure Ray continue to grow while still retaining pretty much all of the attributes that caused them to become popular in the first place.

Although Burn and Shiver is probably a more consistent record than its predecessor, it should also be noted that there isn't really anything here that leaps out and tickles the ears the way "Displaced" or "Sleep" from their debut did. Although "How You Remember" and the closer "Rest Your Eyes" come close, they're the only tracks here that really stand out from the pack. This can mostly be attributed the relentlessly slow, extremely melancholy nature of the songs on Burn and Shiver. "How You Remember" bumps up the tempo just a hair, and varies the instrumentation just enough to make it stand out, and the guitar figure in "Rest Your Eyes" is likewise just jaunty enough to distinguish it from its neighbors.

In fact, my main complaint with Burn and Shiver is that it's just so unvaryingly pretty, and mines the same mood throughout its entire duration, that I find myself nodding off towards the middle of the record. The pair seem to have mastered their formula: two beautiful, intertwining voices, a plucked acoustic guitar, and some miscellaneous background instrumentation (subtly clicking electronic beats, muted horns, ambient washes of keyboard) = an Azure Ray song. While the results are predictably agreeable, this time around, the songs start to come across as somewhat formulaic.

While on the whole, Burn and Shiver is another successful foray into the sleepy, gothic, mournful world of Azure Ray, I'd really like to see Fink and Taylor shake up the formula a bit next time around, as at this point, it seems like they could write these songs in their sleep. While there's nothing wrong with an artist playing to his or her strengths, after awhile, one starts to get the sense that they aren't challenging themselves quite enough. While not everyone needs to go the route of Neil Young and refuse to stay put for two albums in a row, its nonetheless nice to see a musician that puts it on the line. While some of these experiments are inevitably doomed to failure, its really the only way to guard against complacency. At this point, I'm not accusing Azure Ray of becoming complacent. However, I am putting the word out that they are in danger of slipping into a rut. A very pretty, likeable rut, but a rut nonetheless. -

"Azure Ray Regroup for a Gig"

Whether "inactive" or "disbanded" or what have you, the fact is darling soft-pop duo Azure Ray haven't put out a record since 2003's Hold on Love and haven't played a show in ages. Imagine, then, the waves of glee that swept over fans of the band when it was announced Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink would reunite for a performance later this month.

The ladies are set to take the stage at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, California on November 30; word from Saddle Creek is there are no plans for reunion activity beyond this event, so you'd do well not to sleep on this one. Cursive's Tim Kasher and Whispertown 2000 will open the show, and Now It's Overhead guy/ace producer Andy LeMaster will round out the Azure Ray trio at the Troubadour.

Both Taylor and Fink are reportedly wrapping up new solo joints, while Fink's Art in Manila project has been lying low of late. - Pitchfork

"Hold on Love Review"

One of those bands who equate slow, repetitious dirges with dreamy contemplation, Azure Ray are likely to try the patience of the average listener, who will quite possibly feel excluded from their muffled, hermetic world rather than lulled into it by their spare piano-based melodies and their ethereal harmonizing. To its credit, Hold on Love has a few songs that break from this monotony, demonstrating the musical scope and emotional range the band is capable of (and proving the repetitiousness results from stubbornness rather than limitation). "If You Fall" is positively spritely, with a jaunty piano part and optimistic verses that could have come straight off a sunshine-pop record. "Nothing Like A Song" borrows from Terry Jacks's melodramatic '70s hit "Seasons in the Sun", and has an actual chorus to complement and intensify the momentum gathered by the verses, giving the song the satisfying sense of having completed a movement, of having fulfilled itself. And "New Resolution" is positively cinematic, a complete departure from the impassive catatonia that otherwise typifies Azure Ray's sound.

Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, the women who make up the band, both have high, clear voices that blend together effortlessly and inseparably, with a kind of purity that makes them crystalline, icy, almost mechanical -- they are always on the verge of sounding like the choir sample on a Radio Shack keyboard. That's probably by design, part of their effort to cast themselves as goth angels of some sort, but it's a shame too, as their songs really come to life when their voices show some grit, as on "Look to Me", whose lyrics suggest a willingness to confront rather than to withdraw. But such engagement is rare. Azure Ray's music, and perhaps all mopey slowcore in general, seems engineered to celebrate disengagement. Often, the space created by their work feels like a teenager's bedroom with the door shut; while you know some serious sulking is happening on the other side, you know also that the misery is an indulgent luxury, a comfortable retreat from the real pain that comes from actually struggling to fix things.

A song like "We Are Mice" evinces this obstinate refusal to change: Its structure consists of a single part, the pace of the singing never varies, and the instrumentation steadfastly eschews dynamics, or any tension-building feature altogether. I'm surprised how often Azure Ray's albums are called "cathartic" -- to me they seem the very opposite, they seem to defer resolution completely; even their beginnings and endings feel provisional. You long for something contrapuntal in the harmonies or in the different instruments, but every musical component feels locked to a grid -- this subverts the opportunities for space normally afforded by slow tempos, and creates instead an ominous air of claustrophobia.

Frequently, to further negate the possibility of warmth or spontaneity, producer Eric Bachmann augments the songs with laconic, echoing electronic beats that sound like the slow motion chugging of creaky old industrial machines. Perhaps in their rejection of spontaneity and their refusal to offer variety, Azure Ray intend to dignify stasis, the trapped feeling that comes with depression or with the recognition that one's real choices in the world are circumscribed. Azure Ray's airy, nearly inhuman rigor conjures a specific form of spirituality that posits a heaven that won't have you, as in David Lynch's Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk with Me, where the doomed Laura Palmer has visions of angels abandoning her. This may seem a random comparison, but Hold on Love often resembles the soundtrack Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise (whose own voice would fit right in with Fink's and Taylor's) furnished for Twin Peaks.

The album seems to strive for the same mood Badalamenti conjured: an evocation of the sinister foreboding that the vulnerability of innocence can inspire and the clinical, impossible nature of purity when held up as a standard. In the film especially, the languid, dreamlike soundscapes with Cruise's vocal offers a counterpoint to Laura's increasing desperation and her increasing compulsion to self-destruct: its poised control forms an eloquent, poignant counterpoint to her loss of control. In a key scene where Cruise is singing in a sleazy roadhouse, Laura alone registers the music's fragile beauty, which marks her as singularly sensitive and thus uniquely doomed to suffer. Addressing a listener from an unbridgeable distance, Azure Ray's music, with its equally frail beauty, similarly confirms for him that he can't be reached, that he can't be saved, that in his very helplessness may lie his unique and individuating feature, the thing by which he knows himself, dignifying whatever suffering he feels he has endured by qualifying him to appreciate such chilling, forbidding music.

In other words, Azure Ray glorifies the deb -


Burn and Shiver (2002)
November EP (2002)
Azure Ray (2002)
Hold on Love (2003)



Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink met at age 15 at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, where they first collaborated musically. Before Azure Ray, the two were in a band called Little Red Rocket. After playing an acoustic set in Athens, Orenda and Maria were approached by Brian Causey of Warm Records.

Soon after, Little Red Rocket disbanded, and Azure Ray became their main project. Azure Ray has released four albums--two on Warm Records (Azure Ray and Burn and Shiver) and two on Saddle Creek Records (the November EP and Hold on Love). Although they started out in Athens, Georgia, Maria and Orenda later moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where they took part in the growing music scene.

In addition to playing in Azure Ray, Orenda and Maria have worked with several other groups, including Now It's Overhead and Japancakes. They have also collaborated with artists such as Moby (they co-wrote and performed "Great Escape" on 18) and Bright Eyes.

In 2004, Maria and Orenda decided to focus on projects other than Azure Ray. Maria's first solo album, 11:11 was released in May of 2005 to critical acclaim. Two years later Maria released her followup solo album, Lynn Teeter Flower, followed by her latest release on Nettwerk Records entitled Ladyluck in 2009.

Orenda released her first solo album, Invisible Ones, in August of 2005. Toward the end of 2006, Orenda helped form the band Art in Manila and release a record with the group O+S in 2009. Her second solo album, Ask the Night, was released in October 2009.

Earlier this year, the duo decided to reconnect and begin writing new songs for Azure Ray. Having both moved to Los Angeles, the pair is enjoying writing together once more with plans to record a brand new Azure Ray album in January 2010.