|Mike McLatchey||02 August 2004||Kriya|
Transition albums are treacherous, a transition album as a sophomore release a challenge to the extreme. How does a band go from their first lineup to their second (or third or fourth...) while still gaining forward momentum and creating a cohesive album? Based on the talent on their debut release, I'd probably have put my money on Azigza. Based on Kriya, I'd have won the jackpot.
After several seat changes among the trio of percussionists and the loss of vocalist Cyokha Grace (at least as a permanent fixture) around the release of their last EP X to Y, the question was to which guise was this bay area ensemble to wear on the followup to what was one of the finest world/rock albums to ever grace the CD format. With such a wide repertoire of instruments and such an eclectic multiplicity of global musical elements, the only question left was what color the brew would look like when the melting pot had been stirred.
The three tracks from X to Y are here, but based on the different timings, there were obviously some changes, and I haven't quite discerned whether they are different versions or rearranged masters of the same tracks. I'm not even really sure I want to know. They pulled the same sort of trick with the two EPs that originally made up their first album, and transformed two good short works into one masterpiece. Here they've basically taken the outer edge of Azigza with Cyoakha and appended it to new material of a nature subtly and wonderfully different from ground previously crossed.
Violin, guitar and bass lines seem to take even more from the complex weaving of King Crimson, but the atmospheres are not chilly and clinical, rather they ride on atmospheres of drumming and vocals, vocals that are less the one woman front they were and more an ensemble effort. The music tends much more to a tapestry effect, interlocking string and drum lines that weave a complexity in unity, almost Sufi-like. That the two versions of the band are intermixed actually works very well; it's only in the shadings of the music that the differences lie, and it gives the overall effort the richness of character that always keeps things interesting even at its length. Had you heard X to Y before this, the familiarity only allows an easier entrance into the music; it takes no time at all to be taken away by this.
Azigza are indeed a melting pot and that pot has been stirred until all the elements blend in evenly, an effort that belies simple descriptions of rock or world music. In an era when music has been reduced to styles and tributes, Azigza are so ahead of their contemporaries it's almost embarassing. Their emphasis on spirit gives this a consciousness that resonates with you long after the album is over.
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