Dinamo Azari and Alixander III live in a permanent nightworld of sophisticated sleaze. AZARI & III is their project borne out of “the endless nights of reckless abandon, a psychotropic sunset or the greyest shade of come down.” An update of classic templates, it sounds a bit like the culmination of a life in parties; an androgynous cocktail of mental fuzz, paranoia, sex, jealousy, ecstatic elation and whatever else zooms across your mind in dark dancefloor corners.
The project blossomed out of a spectrum of side-hustles: promoting warehouse parties with imported talent from Detroit and Chicago, musical pursuits under their own names as well as Dirty 30, Smutmachine, Pan-tiki, Newhook, film scores, work in design and video, and Alixander III’s proprietorship of the Parkdale, Toronto studio Parkdalian Sound Space. The latter being the probable governing factor in their success at grabbing that timeless sound. Judging by the way they talk about their process, the project is based more on generating auras than rehashing specific motifs: “Think of it in terms of emotions rather than genres. But there is a sensibility, a glue that binds…there is a big picture that will emerge over the next few years, but it’s not yet clear, not even to us!”
While certainly caring to use tried-and-true instrumentation, the gear is second to actual feelings; the tracks are clearly labours of love. They explain over email that “the classic machines themselves, when you start rocking the 12 bit and the DIN sync, dictate a certain sound and vibe. And because we prefer the depth and dimension of analog circuitry and 80’s digital, we are using the kind of studio set up you would find in the inner-cities circa 1988, cranking out underground hip hop, rock and house…we are still on the hunt for a CS80 and an MPC60 disk library. Nothing you hear is contrived to be part of any particular moment or movement; we just power up and emote.”
Listening to their first two singles, Hungry for the Power on I’m A Cliché (download the Runaway Remix above) and Reckless With Your Love on Permanent Vacation, you could hardly accuse them of noughties emotionlessness. Instead both harness the dramatic synth stabs and pure urgency normally associated with the first decade of house. Most prominently, though, are the vocal turns: menacing spoken word by Fritz Helder on the former, and the androgynous, soaring, flamboyance of SYF, who features on both. The latter is going to continue to be part of the project, appearing on several upcoming releases (several 12”s and a full-length are in the near future). For those anxious to put a face to the oversized personalities contained in the tracks, Azari & III are lining up future shows with SYF, though a first glimpse of their visual aesthetic is already available in the form of the video for Hungry for the Power.
Directed by Alixander III and George Vale (both of whom have worked on videos for Feist, Broken Social Scene and “hundreds more”), the video is a cross between American Psycho, Paris Is Burning, the eerily cold, empty-not-empty Toronto of David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, The Warriors and zombie cinema. It was fueled by “the urge to get darker and dirtier than MTV would ever have allowed.” They describe the video as “a raw afterhours indulgence, a napkin sketch realized, a DIY graphical essay on wealth and poverty, sex, AIDS and of course hunger and power.” It’s immaculately produced, and again, a labour of love.
There are constant debates about the modern state of house music, the soullessness of presets and the necessity for a return to American soil, that it’s “all formulaic tracks, no actual songs”. Valid points, maybe. I like to float in a sea of downer deep house as much as the next guy but every now and then it’s important to punctuate with something reckless, glimmering, exclamatory, reminding you you’re alive – the point of Azari & III.
Like this? Then download Dummy Mix 17 // Matt Waites which features Azari & III and more.