Azure Ray is the duo of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama the pair headed to Athens, Georgia but soon relocated to Omaha, Nebraska, where they became part of the city's music scene and the Saddle Creek family. While the fact that they formed back in 2001 gives the impression that they've been knocking around for a while, Drawing Down the Moon is actually the band's first album since 2004. Their fourth in all, on it we find them in the same territory covered on their first three albums: soft-focus dream-pop.
Now It's Overhead leader Andy LeMaster and singer-songwriter Liz Durrett guest, and Eric Bachman is in the producer's chair, making this a Saddle Creek love-in all round. Although there's no sign of the label's co-founder, Conor Oberst - Taylor has regularly contributed to his Bright Eyes project, due for a return in 2011.
Touches of the dreamscapes of Julee Cruise, and the minimal economy reminiscent of the likes of Frazier Chorus, is the default setting here, with everything just about on the right side of twee. Opening with the harping Wake Up, Sleepyhead, a cloudy dream of snugly and nursery rhyme-like lulling descends. On and On Again is the sort of tune you'd hear accompanying a long tracking shot during a particularly emotional scene of an imported medical drama, a fate that could also await lead single Don't Leave My Mind, which is let down a bit by being a little too pretty and ultimately unsubstantial. In the Fog, however, is very good indeed, an electronic burbling background allowing chiming voices to emanate across a static-soaked terrain. Also fine is Love and Permanence, a distant relation to Portishead's Roads. More tracks like these highlights would've benefitted proceedings.
Providing no great advance from having seven years off - although that's no bad thing - Drawing Down the Moon is a gentle continuation of Azure Ray's voyage. It's a warming blanket of an album, here for you to wrap up in. However, beneath an enchanting surface there's not much to warrant being played over and over again.