Monday, January 30, 2017


You might've heard it from me before, because ever since it was released in early 2003, I've been obsessed with the album Enantiodromia by AZITA. This is a solo singer/songwriter piano trio album by Azita Youssefi, previously known as a noisy shouting bass-blasting Chicago No Wave legend in the 1990s with her bands Scissor Girls and Bride of No No. Enantiodromia is a different animal, on which she's backed by a smooth bass & drums rhythm section (Matt Lux of Isotope 217 & John McEntire of Tortoise), the trio occasionally joined by Jeff Parker (of both bands) on guitar, in which her piano playing and melodies soar like classic American and British soft rock and pop music, but can also be spiky like Middle Eastern music, or contemporary classical, or jazz, of course. (Jazz runs deep in Chicago.) Her singing can be, in its own way, as strange as anything she's ever done (right from the first track "Better End In Time") but also as beautiful, and her melodies are always quite beautiful, even when the vocal phrasing seems to be one last concession to her No Wave roots. The lyrics are also really good and concise (if fragmented) social/emotional situations and observations (depending on interpretation, there might be a few breakup songs on here), which works extremely well on the album's two big ballads, side one's "You're Not Very" and side two's devastating "Reopening," wherein the melody and truth of the line "The people in town that I knew / They mostly stay in by themselves" has particularly haunted me for years. These are also the only two songs on which Rob Mazurek contributes remarkable lost & fragile cornet playing, which makes them stand out even further. Also, in a lovely bit of sequencing, each side ends with an excellent instrumental piano solo compositions, such as side one's ambitious 7-minute "Departure of the Boats." Yes, this latest #turntableglue-laden bout has officially convinced me: Enantiodromia is a masterpiece.

P.S.: Long time Blastributing Editor, Sir Christopher Sienko himself, swears that Azita's follow-up Life On The Fly is even better. I'm so committed to the magic of Enantiodromia that to this day I stubbornly still haven't heard Life On The Fly, except for this ChicaGoGo performance of its "Miss Tony," which is indeed a goddamn great song, about 30 times. And hell, even that album came out 13 damn years ago. She has worked steadily since then, releasing three more full-lengths on Drag City that I haven't heard at all, the most recent in 2012, as well as a 2006 EP of solo piano songs she performed onstage as part of a play that ran in Chicago.

P.P.S.: The theater experience wasn't a one-off; in 2010, she was in another play, the lead in something called Last of My Species II: The Perilous Songs of Bibi Merdad. So, she's keeping it interesting, trying new things, extending her parameters. It seems she always has been, one way or another. She was born to Iranian parents, while they were studying in the United States, and spent most of her first decade in Tehran (a picture of her taken at the time is on the cover of her third solo full-length How Will You?). This all changed with the 1979 Iranian Revolution, when her parents permanently relocated to the Washington DC area. She moved to Chicago in 1989 to attend the School of the Art Institute, and in 1991 pursued a different kind of art by forming the Scissor Girls, who were scary and amazing:

While in that band, she self-released a weird and also scary LP called Music For Scattered Brains under the name AZ, on her own label SG Research, basically private press synth (released in a cool duct-taped & silkscreened chipboard disco sleeve) shot through with that 1990s Chicago No Wave aesthetic, harsh electronic squiggle slash and warp, what melodies and rhythms there are in a Residents or creepy-cabaret mode, and I think actual vocals in places although she may be foolin' me. After the Scissor Girls disbanded (and drummer Heather M joined the great Lake of Dracula), Azita formed a group called BRIDE OF NO NO, again all women, this time performing while wearing strange mummy-like burkas. As in the Scissor Girls, Azita played bass and sang. The guitarists were Jenny Graf Sheppard and MV Carbon of Metalux. I believe they had two drummers in their career, first Jen Kienzler, replaced at some point by Shannon Morrow, and the tempos were a lot slower than the Scissor Girls, revealing a moody progressive musicality that may not have been apparent from the previous projects. See below for some of that dark lugubrious music, from a show in early 2003, just before they disbanded and Enantiodromia was released.

P.P.P.S.: When I file Enantiodromia by Azita, it goes right in between Albert Ayler and The B-52's.

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