Album Review: Azari & III – ‘Azari & III’

Gloriously uplifting, but with a dark side

Despite sounding like a Mayan despot and his grandson, Azari & III are actually a Toronto-based house music four-piece: two producers, Dinamo Azari and Alixander III, joined by the demonic-sounding Fritz and thoroughly angelic Cedric on vocals. The undeniable success of their debut album stems from a fearless and energising take on the usually unfuckwithable canonical peaks of classic house music.

This genre contains in its DNA the knowledge that a life spent chasing ecstatic pleasure comes at a cost and, while obviously uplifting, it is shot through with an undercurrent of either dread or melancholy. ‘Reckless (With Your Love)’, which has already become a world-bestriding dancefloor staple, apes not only the diva-led house of the late ’80s and early ’90s but also its coded warnings about AIDS, wrapped inside a pop metaphor for heartbreak. ‘Indigo’ is laced with chiming Italo-piano drops, suggestively squelching acid bass and the soulful glossolalia of people rapturously lost in music.

Tweaking acid future-scapes are the order of the night for wild-eyed sweatbox ravers on ‘Tunnel Vision’, while more sofa-orientated ‘dance’ enthusiasts will revel in the sumptuously warm ‘Change Of Heart’. [a]Hercules And Love Affair[/a] executed a decent reboot of the tough jacking sound of Chi Town house and Big Apple diva disco earlier this year on ‘Blue Songs’, but it has been blown out of the water by ‘Azari & III’. This will be the fate of any other house album measured against it in 2011. We would have liked to have heard more lead vocal from the uniquely talented Cedric, but this is a small quibble when we’re talking about the soundtrack to dancing like your life depends on it in 2011.

John Doran