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Azurazia – Azurazia OST: Lowering the Mediterranean, Irrigating the Sahara


I’m playing this on the road from Marrakesh to the coastal town of Essaouria, the sprawl of habitation reclaimed by stony desert, a spluttering of abandoned ruins, the odd pylon lines groping the desolation. The road ahead, a grey tarmac smear in all this scorched dust, as a ney wrapped call to prayer fills my ears, a lushness that gets the mind wandering.  Out the 4by4’s window, a dusty tornado spirals upward between grave-like piles of rock – seems to be caught on those flute flourishes, quickly dissipating on a haze of Islamic handphonics…

The landscape here is  without doubt the catalyst behind this cinematic vision from Azurazia, a trio of musicians, Vincent Epplay, Pharoah Chromium and Arnaud Maguet, is a soundtrack for an (at present) imaginary film about the futility of irrigating the vast Sahara. It’s a sonic sketchbook of sorts, a mirage of evaporating hopes with washes of traditional North African music easing through, smothered in a churned up filtration. Schnitzler vapours of dispossessed tune, sucked into a dehydrated swoon… a suffocating air chopped up by rotor blades.

By the second side, the hue is a jaded one.  A flat line terminus with nervous apparitions jutting the flux. Recurring flutes, flickering through like some mystic Mayan breath. Desert jams firing through in primitive strums. Hooves on drum skin with busts of radio interference bleeding nicely in slow collision, seething in atmospheric swells. The saxophonic fumes assimilating Arabian shortwave mutterings as vague figures melt into a horizon full of disorienting diversions. The blend is really good, full of vague outlines, blurred impressions, plenty of differing pulls. Those elephantine howls and monotrons rippling out on finger percussions and weird graffitis until the frenetic Mali-esque rhythm overtakes it all and a heavy reverbed vocal is puckered in sunspot electronics.

Side three picks up from where the first side left off, gathering into a slightly nauseous swarm of reedy vibrations, then this Arabic lexicon of a voice gives over its Gilli Smyth caresses… and you’re falling through those exotic syllables. The drifting drone bed carrying an infinite Amen-ho-tep through a wobbling soup of climbing pitches and gaseous exhales. Gamelan ciphers and aerosol hiss follow buried, in a schizoid of after images and backward glances, quickly cleared in a heavy choke of bassy chasm and jack-hammered scarring… A distant clanking of pickaxes on concrete; the clamour of fruitless industry.

This industrial taste is carried over to the final side in a transportative shuffle of locomotive that fades rather beautifully into solitary nomadics. Berber sinews singing to a setting sun that fire directly into a weird division of funky ray gun keyboarding… an upbeat (if rather decayed ) bling seemingly at odds with the rest of the album. A hand clapped mutant disco shuffle that raises hope only for it to be scattered into the grooves of some crackly shellac ’78. An ancient Islamic repeater that background drifts, as a warbling dulcimer is weathered in spooky bamboo synthetics.  The whole thing drawing to a close on a damaged drum’n’bass run out furrowed in firework trajectories and ghosted out  flute slivers. A counterpoint  mash of cobra charmed, backward chanted and wayward intercom buzz that eases into silence; here’s hoping the film opts for a Koyaanisqatsi approach that makes this beauty shine.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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