[sic] Magazine

Azar Swan – And Blow Us A Kiss

Remember Religious To Damn, the lightly Gothic synth-pop band? They, and in particular their part-Afghan singer Zohra Atash, had plenty of potential. Atash, however, failed to capitalise on her heritage, the band playing it way too safe with their debut as a result. She and Joshua Strawn have a new band now and And Blow Us A Kiss is Azar Swan’s second LP. Problem is the duo haven’t learnt their lesson. Now a svelte electro-industrial partnering, Atash’s pretty vocal is often too light for Strawn’s dark rattles and bass pulses. It creates a curious strain of pop without hooks, one unwilling either to go for the kill or to stray too far from the path well-trodden.

And Blow Us A Kiss is one of those albums with lots of cool parts but too few songs. Take “Blank Space” and its marauding buzz, stabbing synth and mysterious foreign language parts. Take the sparse “Hush” and its evil bass tones in which melody is sacrificed for rhythm and atmosphere. Their inner workings laid bare, these tracks and others feel a bit transparent. Even the single, “For Last And Forever”, lacks heart, its robotic Tesla snaps, unholy sub and drum machine parts would sound formidable on a massive basement sound-system yet they frustrate on record like all those anonymous Light Asylum tracks in between the good ones.

Again you get the feeling Atash is missing a trick by not making more of her background. As Religious To Damn it only really bubbled through on one rubab-backed zoner and here the only trace is in a couple of soft-centred drum pulses such as those in the exotic title track. These moments bring character and colour to And Blow Us A Kiss. Just thinking what Atash’s taste for spiritual Zar-drone fills you with what could have been. All the same, whilst claiming the album celebrates her “own brand of what it means to be a woman”, she does turn in a stellar vocal performance, swooshing and swishing in a dance macabre between Siousxie, Elizabeth Fraser and, yes, Kate Bush (those comparisons just won’t go away).

When she and Strawn’s cloak-and-dagger synth get together on the LP’s most complete track “Sing Me Back” she even coos like Kylie getting cosy with NIN. That’s sadly about as good as it gets though. Tracks like “Sugar” are pure cheese while the hyper-calculated “Kiss Of Life” takes the best of contemporary pop only to have it led astray by a girl with a forked tongue and penchant for Goth cliché. Ah, what could have been.

Best tracks: “Sing Me Back” and “We Hunger”

~And Blow Us A Kiss is released 27th October 2014 on Zoo Music.~