Azari & III exuberantly surfs the wave of retro that has swept across dance music over the last few years. On their self-titled debut, the focus is firmly on house music’s “golden” period of ’86-92. Whether this represents an awareness of heritage or a stylised affectation isn’t clear, but there are enough smart twists on the format here to elevate them well above pure pastiche.
The nervy tech-soul of “Into the Night” is a suitably neo-nostalgic opener, with sultry vocals and smooth synth pads dashed with the slightest pinch of studio sparkle. “Reckless (With Your Love)” sounds so much like a genuine early-’90s house belter it might inspire rave flashbacks in listeners who’ve never even been to one. “Tunnel Vision” is closer in spirit to the rougher stuff on Tiga’s Turbo label, all scattershot, detuned electrode flutters and shape-shifting analogue resonance.
Sometimes, this combination of diva-driven frivolity and hip-synth belligerence sits uncomfortably, and you can nearly hear the individual band members pulling in one too many directions. Elsewhere, as on the ominous, warbling acid-pop of “Manhooker” or the restless, bubbling disco-techno of “Manic,” this bi-polarity hits at something marvellous and thrilling. They may be gaining mileage by pinching tricks from a bygone era, but Azari & III’s bold, bombastic and intriguingly awkward fusions make a good case for doing your musical homework.