Azari & III to get Japan sweaty

by Arni Kristjansson

Special To The Japan Times

Azari & III (pronounced “Azari and third”) have snagged a lot of influential supporters in the short period they’ve been making music together.

Their first single, “Reckless (With Your Love)” in 2009, was hailed by tastemaker BBC Radio One DJ Annie Mac, and producer The Revenge. The track is an ode to early 1990s house music complete with vocals that ooze attitude.

“There’s a lot of attitude in this band,” says group member Christian Farley, who performs under the moniker Dinamo Azari. “There are certainly a lot of strong emotions.”

The group formed in Toronto in 2008, but the individual members had been working on music separately since the mid ’90s. Farley is joined by Alphonse Lazan, aka Alixander III, on the synths and drum machines; and vocalists Cedric Gasaida, who performs as Starving Yet Full, and Fritz Helder.

Azari & III released their debut self-titled full-length album last month. On first listen, “Azari & III” seems like it’s governed by an early ’90s sensibility, with its classic house-music drum sounds and synth stabs paired with layered male vocals. But the group says the sounds and inspirations come from a variety of sources. Track “Tunnel Vision” sounds just as much like Kraftwerk with hints of Detroit techno as it does house music, and the long synth pads on “Infiniti” hint at ’70s film soundtracks.

The past few years have seen several ’90s genres re-emerging in the music world. Grunge came back via bands such as Yuck; beatmakers Hudson Mohawke and Burial frequently sample R&B from the decade; and there are endless amounts of shoegaze-themed events at Tokyo’s live houses. But Azari & III say they aren’t referencing the past on purpose.

“I don’t know if (’90s house) is something we’re attracted to as opposed to maybe it subliminally coming out,” says Farley, who adds that he has been blown away by everything from modern electro to “chunky old analog sounds.” He also admits being inspired by current sounds that themselves were references to past music scenes from Chicago, New York and Detroit.

“Kraftwerk is also a major influence of course and it’s got nothing to do with the ’80s or ’90s,” Farley says. “Disco is an influence, the live instrumentation of the ’70s … and then the transformation from that to machines. We don’t really get caught up in this ’80s, ’90s and such.”

Gasaida adds, “It was never an intentional thing. I think the mood that was in the air at the time was the ’80s for the last few years and now the ’90s is the next logical obsession — but it was never a premeditated thing.”

As for their approach to making the music, Farley says: “We just take on more of a hands-on approach. We don’t really let machines control us, we control the machines. You can hear it in some of the shuffle and some of the beats for sure. For ‘Reckless (With Your Love)’ we played the drum machine, we don’t just kind of program them, a lot of the time we play them almost live.”

So what can fans expect from their Japan performances? “All I know is we end up with a show where people are always happy, sweaty and screaming,” Gasaida says. “We get people moving. It’s a very energetic and kinetic live show.

“It can either be a soundtrack to a really hot night, you can either dance your ass off or you can just stand there with your mouth open. So, you have options.”

Azari & III play Gan-Ban Night Special at Womb in Shibuya, Tokyo, on Sept. 30 (¥4,000 in adv.; 11 p.m.; [03] 3444-6751); a DJ set with Sinden, 80Kidz and more at Gate’s 8F in Fukuoka on Oct. 1 (¥500; 9 p.m.; [092] 283-0001); and Freaks Village at Lake Sagami Pleasure Forest in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Pref., on Oct. 2 (ticket prices vary; 3 p.m.; [042] 685-1111). For more information, visit www.azariandiii.com or www.freaks-fes.jp.