Venice Is Sinking is not your average everyday band, and “Azar” is not your average everyday album. A series of orchestral, shoegazestrumentals by Keyboardist James Sewell, named “Azar One,” “Azar Two,” and so on, are strung out across the record, between songs that are sometimes organic and simple (“Ryan’s Song”) and other times complex and dramatic, like “Okay,” which sounds like a Cranberries cover. But the thing that most marks a VIS album is the complex textures and wide variety of sounds. Singers Daniel Lawson and Karolyn Troupe are perfect for each other–his voice is light and strained, hers is rootsy and powerful, a reversed expectation that leads to upside-down harmonies. The album never gets into high gear, but it’s not supposed to. The changes here are more subtle, layered, and precise.
Take “Young Master Sunshine,” a six-minute song that features a slow, almost march-like theme, that creeps forward, threatening to explode but instead ending just slightly faster than it began. This album is meditative but constantly surprising. It belongs right up there with the best work of Yo La Tengo: Experimental but grounded, sad but hopeful, and always, always fascinating.