The new album from Azzurro Peaks is a tripped out album, defiantly resisting genre but shining with cleverly juxtaposed pop hooks and avant-garde experimentation.
The solo project of Mark Jones (Unqualified Nurse Band, Goddesses) Azzurro Peaks has been quietly releasing singles and EPs through Bandcamp over the last couple of years. Describing himself as a ‘folk singer with strong pop sensibilities’ this first long player is elusive in terms of pinning down the sound, wrapping intricate technique around catchy melody.
Opening with single Riders in the Storm the mix of tuning and tapped rhythm with the gently fuzzed vocals elicits early ’70s folk, or the more recent offerings from Ryley Walker. Technically fascinating this opener sets the scene for an album which doesn’t let that flair become self-indulgent but just part one aspect of the intricate melodies.
Whatever Happened to Syd? mixes tribal rhythms, more of that hand-clapped percussions and thunderous undertones to give a dark, at times psychedelic edge to the track. But this is an album painted by shades and those pop sensibilities shine unexpectedly but delightfully.
The Final Third glows with the sort of sweet, melodic sunshine that at times sweeps toward the early Beatles‘ singles while lyrically shooting straight for the heart with innocent, honest and playful refrains akin to Orange Juice.
And then the light dims again and we are flipped back into the shadows as The Wild strips back the sound, and with a Neil Young-esque falsetto plays with a chant vocal melody, hissing percussion and a simple guitar line that becomes stronger only in the dying moments of the song. It’s an introspective end but there is no time to dwell as that upbeat pop and avant-garde tuning brings a catchy and fascinating listen in Don’t Fall Upon The Stepping Stones.
More of that intricate folk picking, and tuning that glows with warmth introduces Old Manor, before stabs of strumming and that high haunting vocal turns this into something more sinister; the heart-hammering apparition at the corner of your vision from which you know you should run but are drawn ever onward by its fascinating otherness.
Earls Court is perhaps one of the more understated tracks on the album, the vocal more rounded yet remaining high. Lyrically it swings from the mundane to the more romantic notions of place and passage of time, the folksy riff circling round; a clock ticking but never moving on. This is psychedelia in the mind-altering, philosophical sense of illusion and boundary pushing, all the more surprising for being delivered through pastoral melody and haunting vocal layers.
Album closer Fragmented builds into frenetic strumming patterns and swirling voice before offering moments to catch breath and wonder before bringing in new tones, taking surprising diversions before returning to that dizzying opening refrain.
A technically intricate and highly melodic album from an artist delving deeply into multiple genres, unafraid of experimentation but anchored firmly in the hooks and melodies of pop.
Leave It On The Island was recorded at Dubrek and is out now via Bandcamp as pay what you like. You can get it here.
Find Azzurro Peaks: