Azam Ali Elysium for the Brave

Iranian born Azam Ali’s Elysium for the Brave paints a picture not of the sunny Valhalla of heroes but of the fields of Elysium that lie in the twilight of the underworld. From the instrumental colour to the packaging, the whole record is wrapped in a sonic blanket of black velvet, with a few chinks of surprising light breaking through. The tapestry of sounds is rich and complex — there are elements of Middle Eastern traditions in the percussion and hammered dulcimer, whose shimmering sound adds to the ethereal affectations. The wavering, shifting vocals are beautiful, although they have a tendency to obscure the lyrics to the point where the fact that they’re in English becomes hard to discern. Most of the songs flow by in silken streams, with the Ali’s crooning acting as the threads that hold the thing together. The consistency of texture allows the album to flow seamlessly from one song to the next, continuing the thread of thought over the entirety of the disc. It also delivers a vague sense of déjà vu, a feeling that we’ve travelled far away, but to a place we’ve been before. (Six Degrees)