An intelligent, decadent debut from the Toronto neo-house quartet
Luke Turner 2011
House music has undergone a terrific splintering since its inception. These various mutations, though, often satisfy only their committed following, and the form has lost both some of its joyous universality on one hand, and class on the other. Step forward Azari & III, a Toronto-based quartet of two machines-men (Dinamo Azari and Alixander III) and two vocalists (Fritz Helder and Cedric), who unwrap and hoover up the finest elements of the form in this imperious debut.
Perhaps Azari & III’s sense of unfussy enjoyment in the sounds they’re creating comes from their origins in the Canadian city of Toronto, far from the usual global dance music hubs. What’s more, they seem to have possibly landed on their sound by happenstance rather than design, as singer Cedric freely admits being largely unaware of the genre until a couple of years ago.
The result is louche and intoxicating. The sweet and honeyed tones of the vocalists belie their gender, though anyone who’s caught the quartet live, when the singers can be seen in heels and wigs, know their aesthetic is not dictated by chromosomes. But Azari & III’s more camp tendencies are not overly arch - something that proved an Achilles heel for the electroclash groups who, 10 years ago, attempted a similarly glammed-up take on house.
The brilliance of their debut lies in its ability to cover all bases. Not just in reverential nods to house music ancient and modern, but in the ability to knock off disco-flecked high carat electronic pop. There’s Hungry For The Power, a banker-baiting banger, and the effortlessly slinky opener Into The Night; the worried sensuality of Reckless With Your Love, and Manic, which evokes Giorgio Morodor and would suit a turn from none other than Grace Jones.
Linking all these together, and making Azari & III feel as much of club mix as an album, is the instrumental tracks. Insistent drum hiss and gliding acid arpeggios act like the flexing sinews of a buff and bronzed arm. It is the way this excellent debut matches sweat-glistening action with a dark, fruity class that ensures Azari & III will be one of the finest electronic pop records you’re likely to hear in 2011.