Azari & III are based out of Toronto, but their hedonistic nightmusic pouts nostalgically in the direction of Chicago. Loose-limbed, decidedly after-hours grooves are the order of the night on their eponymous debut album, a record that holds its own alongside works by Hercules And Love Affair and Jessica 6. Playing like a continuous DJ set, it features the floor-filling numbers Hungry For The Power and Reckless (With Your Love), the latter of which calls Inner City’s Good Life to mind.
Live, Azari & III crank up the celebratory energy levels with larger than life front men Fritz Helder and the rather fabulously named Starving Yet Full, aka Cedric Gasaida. While Dinamo Azari and Alixander III busy themselves with drums, synths and assorted electronic gizmos at the back of Madam Jojo’s tiny elevated stage, Helder and Gasaida leap, vogue and shimmy, first at the front of the stage and then, creating an audience whirlpool in so doing, on the packed dance floor. Helder’s shirt soon comes off, revealing abs whose talents extend to their very own dance routine. School night or not, the temperature soon hots up.
Azari & III’s infectious repackaging of Chicago party house from bygone times is dynamised with breaks from diva vocals during which the music wanders off in an instrumental direction, and here and there the mood darkens as it creates a claustrophobic, dark and unexpected place. In this mode, key track Tunnel Vision engrosses and underlines the band’s top-notch production values while Into The Night, with Gasaida’s warm vocals, is all but opposite as a rather lighter affair that suggests an atmosphere of belonging. Somewhere between the two sits Indigo, which offers shades of both light and dark to great effect.
Their melting cauldron of ideas and styles only occasionally misfires, such as on Undecided, with its monster synths smashing uncomfortably against period piece percussion, noirish diversions that sound unfinished and vocals in a hurry to get to the end. But such is the strength in depth of much of the rest of the set that any anomalies are easily offset; Manic’s vocal loops stick like limpets to brains long after the set’s at an end.
What seems like an abrupt close to the gig, ahead of an after-hours club, underlines that these creatures of the night work best in their own time zone rather than in mid-evening slots. Their set could carry on longer, if their energy levels could be maintained. And, while they’re presently a quartet, there’s every indication that any one of the band – most especially Gasaida – could group about him a collective of like minds for extra-marital projects in the future, if this retro scene in which they’re partying can cope with them.