For Azure Ray’s long-awaited fourth album, the newly-reformed duo again employs hushed electronics and whispered vocals to build its collection of sad songs. For a band with a more abundant output, such recycled energy would be a pity. But it’s been seven years since Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink uttered a peep as Azure Ray, so instead of being tired, Drawing Down the Moon feels loaded with nostalgia, like being welcomed home by an old and very heartsick friend.
Drawing Down the Moon may be Azure Ray’s first album in seven years, but bandmates Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink kept themselves more than busy during their time apart. Taylor released three full-length solo albums and collaborated with Saddle Creek cohort Andy LeMaster on an EP, while Fink issued two solo discs and formed two different bands, both of whom released records of their own. The projects all had different names, but none of them differed too much from Azure Ray’s wistful acoustic pop, which makes this “reunion album” sound like the hiatus never happened.
They’re back. After a hiatus of seven years, which saw the release of solo albums from both Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink, the duo have reformed once more as Azure Ray. The release of their fourth full-length, Drawing Down the Moon, will surprise no one: it is a lovely record full of hushed, breathy vocals, ethereal harmonies, and accompaniments that are, on occasion, surprisingly muscular.
It's easy to forget, but when Azure Ray were active during the first years of the previous decade, Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor were fairly prolific, releasing three albums in three years along with a handful of singles and EPs. Their last was 2003's Hold On Love, and a year later, for various reasons, Azure Ray went on indefinite hiatus, and the childhood friends went their separate ways. In the interim, they both stayed typically busy: Each released a few solo albums and recorded various side projects.
A full seven years have passed since Azure Ray last released an album, but fans of their distinctive, poised melodrama can rest easy: with Drawing Down The Moon showcasing their familiar charms and flaws, it’s like they’ve never been away. The charms are obvious. Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor’s voices are as blissful as ever, conspiring to form truly wondrous melodies and harmonies throughout.
There’s no worse circumstance than following a passionless route that may lead the rest of your life. In the beginning of the last decade, when Azure Ray rolled out three albums in scarcely three years, it seemed as if the Alabama duo would consistently soundtrack plenty of long drives home. And just like that, they faded into memory. Just as naturalistic as the music implies, the duo drifted into individual projects but never got to capture the essence both brought together as a unit.
A warming blanket of an album, here for you to wrap yourself in. Ian Wade 2010 Azure Ray is the duo of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama the pair headed to Athens, Georgia but soon relocated to Omaha, Nebraska, where they became part of the city’s music scene and the Saddle Creek family. While the fact that they formed back in 2001 gives the impression that they’ve been knocking around for a while, Drawing Down the Moon is actually the band’s first album since 2004.