Azure Ray: November

[24 April 2002]

By Stephanie Dickison

Sunday Soundtrack

Only six songs long, November will no doubt tweak your interest immediately. A bare bones, but warm vocal/guitar duo, this is a must for rainy Sunday afternoons or for during the workweek when you just need something soothing, something not too much. A little alternative, a little indie, a little folk, these girls are going to encapsulate you, whether you like it or not.

Orenda and Maria were known in the Athens area as Little Red Rocket, or under their more casual moniker, Orenda and Maria. Giving themselves a band name was an auspicious move. Feeling more like a unit, they were able to perform and write songs on a more experienced, professional level. They were signed on to Geffen Records, but the deal never came to fruition. Now with Saddle Creek and this new album, it is almost certain that with the brilliant ethereal sound they have created, they are sure to get some serious attention.

When you first hear the girls, you might be tempted to quickly snuff, “chick music”. But like Esthero and Olive, this type of melancholic music that has crept into popular bands such as Stereolab, the Beta Band, Sense Field and the like, you’ll forget that it is two chicks and just get swept up in their sound. Via headphones, you feel surrounded, enchanted. Just imagine how incredible they would sound live. Mmm.

Feeling like a windy summer day, the six tracks deal with vignettes and tableaux from life’s more ordinary and peculiar moments. “November”, title track, is one of their best. Talking about everything and nothing at the same time, the addition of cello invites hairs on the back of your neck to stand at attention. “Staring at deep, blue walls”, these girls could just hum the phone book and we’d be captivated.

Sounding like a Duncan Sheik or Chris Isaak tune, “For the Sake of the Song” would find itself immensely comfortable beside Radiohead, Zero 7, or the Strokes. The bareness of this tune will make you weep.

Steady beats lead off “No Signs of Rain”. The addition of steel drums is particularly haunting and this is by far their most melancholic. The urge to walk in the rain or reread old lover’s letters will overwhelm you during the most eddying musical four minutes of your life.

How do they manage to make the guitars sound so sad? As they whisper their innermost thoughts and desires in your ear, you’d swear you feel their breath, warm and moist, feel their lips brush against them. This is “Just a Faint Line” and it is so quiet, so even, that you may forget it just as quickly as it’s over. Just another great excuse to play it again.

The heavy, thick sounds of “I Will Do These Things” are not about guitars, but about ambient, trip-hop sounds. It is a break from their trademark sound, and while you will only want more of the girls singing their secrets over guitars, it is nice to know they can do other things. This is what will excite the Paul Oakenfeld’s and soundtrack producers of the world.

The folkiest of the bunch, Track 6, “Other Than This World” evokes a clear ‘60s feel. Not knowing this was a millennium album, you would have a hard time trying to place it. For those who aren’t at all about folk, you’d be surprised how quickly Orenda and Maria can win you over. And this is where their power lies. With just their guitars and voices, they are set to be the Pied Pipers of 2002. Lead and we will follow.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/azureray-november/