Azeda Booth hails from Calgary, Alberta, up north in Canada, but by my calculations, they should be Scandinavian. The band has a chilly mystery about them, a sort of pixie-like amorphousness that’s both charming and distant, bringing to mind the atmospheric post-rock of Múm or Under Byen. The band has a warmth about them that’s comforting and easy to warm to, and yet at the same time, there’s an exotic iciness to their musical broth as well. Because of this strange dichotomy, In Flesh Tones proves itself to be one of the great musical mysteries of 2008.
Originally a duo, Azeda Booth has expanded to a quintet, and on In Flesh Tones, ahem, flesh out an electronic IDM template into a broader, full-band approach. At the heart of it all, there are organs and synths driving ambient sheets toward mighty climaxes, as on “In Red,” a song which would best be described as a Boards of Canada and Sigur Rós jam session. Jordon Hossack’s vocals are soft, yet screechy, suggesting a sort of playful impishness. It’s a peculiar voice, to be sure, and yet seems to fit perfectly within the band’s curious mixture.
“First Little Britches” throbs and flashes with soothing, Aphex Twin-like ambient keyboard tones, as Hossack breathes another series of sweetly and oddly soulful tones over its delicate arrangement. “John Cleese,” by comparison, seems a bit more manic, built upon a flurry of almost jungle-like beats, yet still somewhat soft and sensuous in its overall approach. “Lobster Quadrille” takes that juxtaposition and stretches it in both directions, with the subtle ambience becoming even slighter, and the manically clattering beats firing even more erratically. While the album as a whole is quite beautiful, in its simplicity, “Big Fists” is one of only a handful to stand out as a potential single, or at the very least mixtape fodder. It’s easy and carries a subtle groove, but has a sweet soul about it that’s reminiscent of Junior Boys under a hazy cloud.
Azeda Booth’s music comes off as something more playful and mischievous than anything human, yet there’s a deep melancholy to it that only real human beings could create. It may not be Scandinavian, but should you find yourself on the edge of a rocky cliff, deep in the chill of winter, this may be the best album to put on as you watch the vapor of your breath appear over a seascape of crashing waves.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.