Azam Ali

Elysium for the Brave

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Beginning in the late '90s as half of the duo Vas (with percussionist Greg Ellis), one-third of the group Niyaz (with Loga Ramin Torkian and Carmen Rizzo), and on her own, Azam Ali quietly established a reputation as one of the purest, most captivating voices in world music. But Elysium for the Brave elevates Ali to a whole other level. The second solo album by the Iran-born, India-raised, L.A.-dwelling Ali is -- there's no subtle way to put it -- a masterwork, a stunningly whole, utterly fulfilling creation that forces a reconsideration not only of her own capabilities but of the inherent possibilities of the world fusion genre. Whereas Ali's previous work often verged on new age, its breathy gentleness alluring but ultimately limiting, on Elysium Ali -- who wrote the album's lyrics and co-produced it with Rizzo -- hurls herself into the void, allows creative vision to intervene and takes her vocal instrument to places it never before indicated it could go. Now singing some of her material in English, and further blurring the lines between traditional acoustic instrumentation and electronic synthetics, Ali interlaces the vocal and the instrumental, the new and the old, the spiritual and the erotic, into one seamlessly sewn quilt of atmospheres, textures, and unexpected, breathtaking leaps. Joined by the members of Niyaz, King Crimson's Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto, Persian classical violinist Kiavash Nourai, and others, Azam Ali has created a thing of beauty and wonder in Elysium for the Brave.

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