CD Review: Azam Ali – From Night to the Edge of Day

About four years ago, a co-worker asked me if I had borrowed her Vas CD In the Garden of Souls. I had never even heard of Vas at the time, so no–I hadn’t borrowed it. Being curious, I hopped on Amazon and picked up a copy. Once it shipped, I listened to it a few times, then as a gift turned it over to my co-worker.

After a few days, I found myself *really* wanting to listen to it again. She let me borrow it for a few days, during which I became absolutely enamored with Azam Ali’s voice and style. Then I started doing my homework …

I know I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but for the love of all that is holy, that chick is PROLIFIC. Not only did she have 3 other CDs with Vas, but she had a CD with her side project Niyaz, 2 solo CDs, and a bunch of collaboration projects, one of which was a single with Serj Tankian of SOAD and Buckethead. GREAT song.

That was an expensive Amazon day. I bought everything she had that I could find in one fell swoop. Over the years, I’ve kept tabs to see what else she had going on. She released a new CD with Niyaz a few years ago. Then her website started hinting at a new solo CD.

That CD was released today. From Night to the Edge of Day is a compilation of her takes on various children’s lullabies from her native Iran. 10 tracks of not understanding a single word she sings, but feeling every neuron respond to the pure musical magic of her incantations.

Some of her music is incredibly energetic, though in a subdued, refined way. I point to Elysium for the Brave for a few tracks, such as “Endless Reverie,” “Abode,” and “Forty One Ways.” There’s an energy to these that’s so … different. Not the “I can get up and dance to this!” kind of energy. No … this energy is different, and I just figured out what it is: it reminds me of the “energy” that Sarah Fimm creates in her music–one of a very strong … “amorous” energy. Yah–that’s it.

However, that energy is nowhere on this new CD. Like I said, it’s a collection of re-invented children’s’ lullabies, and every track does its intended job. There is a dreaminess and trance-inducing quality to these songs that is only hinted at on her other works.

Stand-out tracks:

“Tenderness” is absolutely ethereal. There is a I could listen to this one track on repeat pretty much all day. The deep, almost rumbling sounds of what may be a synth, layered with her breathy, luring vocals, mixed with various sounds, slowly mixing in another layer of synth a couple of octaves above the bass synth … it’s just an incredibly relaxing track.

“Neni Desem” starts similarly, but then a string instrument sounding suspiciously like a dulcimer kicks in. Gah … I wish I had the liner notes with me for this. This is a much more stripped down song than “Tenderness.” It really is just the keyboard synth, some string instruments, and her layered vocals that mesmerize and hypnotize.

“Dandini” uses percussion to keep the flow of the song moving, though I’m sure it would sound just as incredible without. This track is similar to “In the Garden of Souls” in that you can hear similar percussion, used in a similarly slow, burning, yearning way.

If this becomes your first Azam Ali purchase, may I congratulate you for taking your first steps into a larger, more musically mature world. Unless you are fluent in Farsi or native Iranian dialects, odds are you won’t understand a word on this CD. that will have literally zero impact on your ability to flat-out enjoy this new offering.

Feel free to file this under “shiver” because this is almost guaranteed to give you goose bumps.

Azam Ali’s New CD Comes Out Tomorrow!

Azam Ali’s new CD comes out TOMORROW. I’m extremely stoked about this. I have all her solo material, her work with Vas and Niyaz, Roseland … there isn’t anything she does that’s not incredible. I pre-ordered the new CD on Amazon this morning, but I highly doubt they’ll get it to me by tomorrow.

I wish I had checked her site last week. I knew her CD was coming out either in April or May, but I didn’t know it was tomorrow, ya know? So now I have something else to look forward to this week other than playoff hockey (Go Sabres!).

Relaxing Evening with Photomatix and Metallica

Yes, you read that right–relaxing evening with Metallica. Garage Days Re-Revisited. Well, the Garage Inc. Version, anyway. Lots more songs on it than the 5.98 EP, so it works for me.

Is it wrong that I still loathe Bob Rock for taking their incredible sound and literally destroying it? I mean, … and Justice for All was just so amazing, regardless of what Jason Newsted being relegated to almost non-existence. At least for that CD. I don’t know. The black album had some gems, but … it really was the beginning of the end, and for 17 years, they tried denying it. The black album, Load, Reload … just weren’t anything special. Again, some good songs, but … that’s it. It was extremely difficult to listen to those two CDs all the way through without skipping at least half the tracks. Compare that to Kill ’em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, and Justice. Every single song on those 4 CDs are winners. Well, okay … if we’re being totally honest and open, Kill ’em All had a few relative duds, but those “duds” still kicked ass over most anything on the 3 aforementioned weak CDs.

St. Anger … what? Does anyone even talk about that CD? Seriously?

Their saving grace from the ultimate “Fade to Black” was writing Death Magnetic. While it definitely shows James’ age and voice deterioration, it also shows that they still have some balls left. I’ve written a review of the whole CD a while back, so no need to rehash it here. It just amazes me that after … I don’t know. They didn’t quite suck cuz they did have some great songs, and hoorah to them for trying to branch out. I just don’t think it worked out in their favor. They might have been commercially wildly successful. That doesn’t mean they were good. Not in my book.

Anyway, ever since I was in high school, I’ve always found some soothing element in listening to Metallica. I can’t explain it. Pantera doesn’t have that affect. Iron Maiden doesn’t either. No other metal-style band does. Of course, artists like Azam Ali, Marissa Nadler, Sarah Fimm … of course they have a soothing and relaxing effect. They’re *supposed* to. So go figure. Not sure what the deal is. Don’t care, either. 😉

Speaking of Photomatix, these HDR images aren’t gonna tweak themselves.

Upcoming Releases for Fantastic Music

This morning, as I was heading in to work, Alela Diane’s “White as Diamonds” shuffled through my phone. Having not listened to To Be Still in a while, I “unshuffled” my playlist and started from “Dry Grass and Shadows.”

There are few voices as distinct as hers. There are also few voices that can evoke such emotion–such raw, visceral feeling. She pours her soul into her music. Not that most artists don’t, but hers … sweet cabbage and mutton, how does she do it?

I started wondering if she has anything coming down the pike. In the “HUZZAH!!” category, we have this bit of news straight off her website: new CD coming out in the spring. No specific date, but her site is in a state of overhaul, I guess … at least that’s the illusion on the front page, so maybe more news will be forthcoming with the new site.

So THAT got me wondering who else has new stuff coming in the near future. Here’s a list I’ve compiled of potential releases in the next few months.

  • Alela Diane – Spring release.
  • Sarah Fimm – A new release is immenently close at hand. She’s taunting us with talk of a new song on her Facebook page.
  • Azam Ali – From Night to the Edge of Day, March or April.
  • The Dears Degeneration Street, Februray 15 (though this might just be a Canadian-only release date … not sure)
  • Dredg – early 2011 (nothing on their site other than a post from August targeting an “early 2011” release)
  • Eisley The Valley, March 1

Brief interruption … looks like the good folks from Gypsy Death and You are hooking me up with some tune-age. Again, I refer you to NewBandDay‘s post about them for “Crocus” and “Something I Can’t Have.”

And now, back to the list. On with the show, as they say, blah blah blah.

  • Samantha Crain – coming at some point hopefully in 2011, but it looks like she has a lot of projects that are keeping her well booked, so we’ll hope. She’s writing new stuff, so that’s good!
  • Well, crap. I wanted to post that Rush will be releasing their new CD this year, but it looks like they’ll resume recording in the late summer or early fall for Clockwork Angels, which will probably be released in early 2012. Well *that* sucks.
  • Howling Bells – early to mid year (?). Looks like they’re done with the recording and they’re well into the mixing stage, if not past it. Of interesting note is the fact that Mark Stroemer, of The Killers fame, is producing the CD. Hmm.
  • Marissa Nadler – Her site has a donation page set up, and the funding has been met as of December 9th. Not sure if she’s in the studio or not, but you can follow her blog here.

Honestly, I’m sure there are a ton more, and I’ll do some more research later, but for now, that’s enough to whet just about any musical appetite. Stay tuned …

41 Ways To Die …

A couple of years ago, a girl I worked with asked if I had borrowed her Vas CD. Since I had no clue what she meant, I actually had to ask if it’s a piece of software. She just laughed. “No, they’re a musical group. Heavy middle-eastern influence.” Obviously, I didn’t have the CD. I came home and did some poking around online. Here’s what I discovered.

Vas is the collaboration of Azam Ali and Greg Ellis. They’ve been working together since 1997’s Sunyata CD. They have 3 other CDs: Offerings (1998), In the Garden of Souls (2000), and Feast of Silence (2004).

Azam Ali is a busy little girl. In addition to Vas, she works on a few other projects:

  • Niyaz
  • Roseland
  • Solo recordings
  • Collaborative recordings

So far, I have 9 CDs of her stuff: 4 Vas CDs, 2 Niyaz CDs, 2 solo CDs, and Roseland.

Here’s the thing. Her voice is …

ummm ….

it’s ….

well, let me put it this way: you’ll either need a cigarette or you’ll have to pee after you’re done listening to her. She’s that good.

On some of her projects (Roseland, solo efforts to some degree), she mixes western influence in with her music. With others, you can totally tell that she is of Iranian descent.

Her music is great if you’re into mellow, relaxing, hypnotic soundscapes that send you on a trance-inducing trip, much like taking a Lortab 10. The great thing is that, once the music is gone, you’re not left with a chemical hangover. Cuz, you know … Lortab does that to you. Or maybe it just does that to me.

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