With the indefinite hiatus of Azure Ray, the duo of Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink ventured into the lives of solo recording artists with different intentions. Maria offered up her 11:11 album, which was more or less a continuation of the established Azure Ray sound, focusing on the vaguely folk indie pop which had won her over her with the pair's fan base. Orenda's The Invisible Ones was much more lofty in it's ambitions; taking on an approach to song writing which sought to encompass her experience in world travel, and the idea of external/collective consciousness. The result was a sound undeniably distinctive, and while showing glimpses of the transcendence she sought after, failed in consistency.
It was the subsequent tour for that album, however, which gave birth to the songstress' latest effort, coming to us this time as the collective Art in Manila. The band is described as the best of Orendas touring group, and adds a fuller sound to the native Georgians melodies. Their first release Set the Woods on Fire retains the arty feel of The Invisible Ones while changing focus slightly to a more personal feel. With the opening track Time Will get us all, which offers a quaint piano line accompanied by sparse guitar backing, the albums course is set. What's put across is something that borders on the original draw to Azure Ray, the introspective themes and subtle undertones, while expanding musically to draw from a wide variety of inspirations. The blend offers up something well worth a passing listen, but lacks the strength to really give something extremely memorable.
Set the Woods on Fire shows its strongest points when it differentiates from the indie rock template to include the world music feel explored previously on The Invisible Ones, and while the extroverted themes combined with the unique style previously left listeners somewhat alienated, the sound fits perfectly with the more intimate lyrics. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of these types of tracks on the record, the strongest of which being Anything You Love. Another highlight comes in As Sweat Descends, which for all intensive purposes feels more like a song belonging to her husbands band The Faint, and includes the lyrics Leave me wet as sweat descends and Fuck my tongue if you still can't tell. Art In Manila shows a lot of potential for their first release but suffers from being unsure exactly what the band wants to be.
Saddle Creek, Maria Taylor, Orenda Fink, Azure Ray, The Faint
6.5 / 10
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