It’s finally summer, and I’m finished with college and coming out of hiatus. The last few months have been crunch, and I’ve had much less time to produce or review, but I’ve still been able to hear so many of the great new titles that have been dropping this year. Among them is yet another excellent indie-chip hybrid, a subgenre of a subgenre I’m starting to notice I have a weakness for.
‘We Were Once Called Spring‘ is Azuria Sky’s experimental and significant expansion into the constantly blending realm of folk and indie. It’s an eclectic assortment of LSDJ riffs, folksy chord progressions, and poignant, sentimental lyrics backed by acoustic guitar.
‘Exhale, 2. Ostinato’ is the second component of the the album’s tripartite introduction sequence. After the tranquil opening tack driven by soft piano chords and gentle vocalization, ‘Ostinato‘ introduces LSDJ to the album with upbeat square-waves and the fading in and out of its sweeping bassline. Before long, choppy percussion carries the leading melody into a dancey breakdown, complemented by triangle waves on the WAV channel. This segment continues through to the end of the song, adding melodic complexity after a second, more introspective lull. The track closes out with the same series of rippling percussive elements, before they’re yanked into the background by a fader effect. This song is unique as the only traditional LSDJ track on the album, as well as one of only two without any vocal elements. I’m almost tempted to call it a little out of place, but combined with the other two members of the ‘Exhale […]’ trilogy, Azuria breaks one introduction sequence into three separate demonstrations of her acoustic, chiptune, and lyrical sensibilities, respectively.
‘Summer,’ the fourth track on the album, mirrors ‘Winter‘ from Azuria’s 2017 album ‘This Is Goodbye (If You Need It To Be),’ but only in title. ‘Summer‘ features Azuria’s touching lyricism on top of bittersweet acoustic guitar arpeggios. The piece gives conceptual focus to the experiences of betrayal and escaping limitation. At the end of the fourth stanza, a radiant LSDJ synth punctuates her words, and the piece flows into an emotive chorus accented by an echoing pad and soft, impassioned vocalization. The final verse emerges from this section with additional electronic elements, which follow the acoustic guitar afterwards for a few moments before the verse is repeated, quieter — almost in a whisper, and the track ends. ‘Summer‘, while simpler and perhaps less technical than other tracks on ‘We Were Once Called Spring‘, is very effective at evoking a powerful, bittersweet mood through its sentimental lyrics and the reserved, gentle ambiance that complements them.
‘Listen – Remaster‘ is, as the title would imply, a revisitation of ‘listen_‘ from Azuria’s first feature-length album ‘Gravity.’ ‘Listen‘ begins with a meandering and introspective guitar introduction which is then joined by the melancholic, yet spirited, delivery of Azuria’s expressively simple and meditative lyrics.
From drops of sun
Our tattered hearts
Sail bravely on
I can hear you
Can you hear me?
As the lyrics trail off, a charming 8-bit progression infused with Azuria’s trademarked emotive aura possesses the remainder of the track, starting with pulsewave arpeggios and developing into an anthemic, blippy melody that carries the track out. My main takeaway from the inclusion of this older, yet perfectly fitting track, is that this hybrid album is something Azuria Sky has been wanting to commit to for a long time.
‘Blue‘ opens with the radiant polyphonic LSDJ instrument featured in ‘Summer‘ and ‘Ravens,’ which pulses in and out alongside guitar plucks and the first verse. Electronic elements flutter in spontaneously to more effectively fill the space between verses and accompany those that follow. A sharp hiss eliminates all sounds but the guitar plucks, and the last verse is sung tenderly, before erupting into a bright, compelling chorus accompanied by more traditional percussion (including gated reverb snares) and Azuria’s lovely vocalization. From here — again — the supporting instruments are cut and the first two verses are delicately redelivered, supplemented only by the backing guitar. The chorus is played again but quieter, fading until it disappears completely.
‘Disappear‘ closes out the album with a serene, glowing outro accented by a nostalgic 50% width pulsewave melody. Like many of the previous tracks, ‘Disappear‘ begins with simple acoustic guitar arpeggios and expressive vocalizations. There are only three verses in this piece, but they are crafted to elicit a feeling of closure.
Now close your eyes
I’ll sing a lullaby
With silence as my words
I bid you goodbye
Meet me in the tide
I’ll be in disguise
And though the years go by
I’ll smile when you arrive
Open your eyes
And slowly breathe again
I’ll be sure to hide near you
When I disappear
With references to sensory devices used throughout the album, ‘Disappear‘ discusses the final meeting between the narrator and an abstract listener, carrying with it the message of a bittersweet goodbye, a theme prevalent in Azuria’s songwriting.
‘We were once called Spring‘ is a beautiful expression of the combinatory strength of chiptune with other genres, particularly indie and folk. The brightness of pulsewaves is a powerful complement to largely acoustic instrumentation, allowing for the inclusion of evocative melodies too complex for vocalization. I’m really hoping other folk artists take a page from Azuria Sky’s book and dig up their old Gameboys one of these days. Azuria Sky is an excellent representation of the creativity and passion of the chiptune community, and I hope this predominantly indie/folk album draws new listeners into the wonderful world of 8-bit.