PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Azam Ali: Elysium Remixes EP 1 and 2

Courtney Tenz

An "endless reverie" of remixes by one of world music's top vocalists.


Azam Ali

Elysium Remixes EP 1 and 2

Label: Six Degrees
US Release Date: 2007-02-06
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

For decades now, Americans have received heapings of negative press about Iran, centered mainly on the stances of the country's politicians. Lost in these headlines is the truth of the country's extensive cultural history, the strength of its people, and the recurring vibrancy of its music and arts scene. As Marjane Satrapi details in her graphic memoirs, Persepolis 1 & 2 and Chicken with Plums, the Islamic Revolution changed the laws governing the country's citizenry and limited their creative expression, but it could not whitewash the Persian past nor entirely remove the influence of mythology, mysticism, and artistry on the people. Still, it's nearly impossible for Americans to learn of these artistic endeavors. Unless, that is, they occur outside of Iran.

This is where Azam Ali, a Tehran-born, India- and Los Angeles-raised musician, steps in. One of today's top artists outside of Iran to embrace her Persian heritage through music, Ali studied the santour and the hammered dulcimer before moving on to vocals. As part of the band Niyaz, she released an album mixing Persian and Urdu Sufi poetry with instrumentals.

Her musical influences aren't limited by her Persian heritage, however. Portals of Grace, her first solo album, retold ancient Western European medieval songs. And she's collaborated with musicians as diverse as The Crystal Method, Serj Tankian of System of a Down, and Chris Vrenna formerly of Nine Inch Nails. Ali's voice likewise graces many film and television soundtracks, from Alias and the controversial ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11, to Dawn of the Dead, and Matrix Revolutions. Perhaps it's this wide outreach that makes Ali's work sound so familiar, her voice comforting in spite of its haunted and haunting qualities.

And that's also likely why her work as a musician has consistently appeared at the top of the world music charts. Elysium for the Brave, Azam's second solo album, especially drew acclaim for weaving world sounds with atmospheric rock, electronic, and poetic lyricism. Elysium Remixes, available from Six Degrees as a two-part EP digital download (separated into tracks 1-5 and 6-10 and not available individually), picks up on the album's popularity and remakes the hits from this second album for a different audience. Less an Ali project than an attempt to bring Elysium for the Brave to the dance floor, the remixes by accomplished DJs like Bombay Dub Orchestra and ZAMAN 8 focus extensively on putting an electronic soundtrack to samples of Ali's voice.

Overall, as dance tracks, the project proves successful. "Spring Arrives" and "I am a Stranger in this World" both pull from Ali's base track to produce a moody, spell-binding mix of lyrics and electronic beats. As is too often the case with remix albums, however, the noteworthy attributes of the original songs become lost beneath the bass and turntable tricks, and this proves a dilemma for the Elysium Remixes. Because despite the strengths of the individual remixes, the album is marketed as an Azam Ali and her musical stylings -- including traditional instrumentation -- feel noticeably absent, replaced by keyboards and false build-ups. Ardent fans of Ali hoping for a new multicultural foray into musical traditions may ultimately come away from the album disappointed.

Likewise, those interested in hearing something new after her much-criticized appearance on the 300 soundtrack may be frustrated by these digital download packages. Both EP releases contain two remixes of "Endless Reverie" (yes, that's right -- four of ten songs are comprised of the same base), a song that in spite of its inherent goodness sounds more than a bit repetitious after 24 minutes of play. And this Azam Ali gem stands out more in its original version than on any of these, albeit accomplished, remixes. Still, for DJs interested in blending electronic with world sounds and dance floor fans of Thievery Corporation, the album is worth listening to, if only to hear what other electronic musicians can do with the haunting voice of Ali.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.