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Azar Swan Deliver A “Shock” To Your System


Celebrating artists that change and evolve over time is a worthy cause, but it’s important to distinguish the nature of those changes. There are plenty of artists for whom a change of sound is effectively a change in branding, new sounds signifying a new persona with new clothes to match. There is another type of growth characterized less by shedding skin than by burrowing inward. The essential spirit of the art hasn’t changed, but the artist has dug deeper to its core, revealing it to us in more intimate and raw fashion.

Azar Swan are part of the latter class. The group, consisting of Zohra Atash and Joshua Strawn, have always had an aggressive and disturbing edge to their music, but on their last album, 2015’s And Blow Us a Kiss, it was kept just out of sight. On “Shock”, the opening track from their upcoming Savage Exile, they hold that edge right to your throat. No matter how dark it got, Azar Swan’s previous work was grounded in melody and accessible rhythms. Even Savage Exile’s first single, “Territorial”, could reasonably be tied to a tradition of dance music, albeit a particularly confrontational strain. “Shock” on the other hand only uses rhythm to organize, not to mobilize. As an album opener it dashes expectations of the duo’s old approach. On it’s own it’s an unnerving piece of textural experimentation.

Atash’s voice is the site of the group’s most dramatic change. Here it is just as much an instrument as a focal point, the words Atash sing obscured by both her drawn out performance and her use of processing to bend each syllable into a new shape. They are no longer the way into Azar Swan’s music, instead Atash is issuing an aesthetic warning. This not for the uninitiated. If you aren’t willing to follow them where “Shock” leads, you best turn back now. By the same token the song’s sparse, vibrating layers of sound are almost like the opening pages of a book. If you can handle the paper cuts and decipher the dialect, then this one’s for you. All else, be warned: here be monsters.

Savage Exile will be released on December 1st via aufnahme + wiedergabe. Follow Azar Swan on Facebook.

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