If you look at it on a map, it almost makes sense: the cities of Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto form a kind of Midwestern house music Bermuda triangle. Though the first two on that list are classically linked as a would-be fertile crescent for electronic dance music, Toronto has, in recent years, proven itself to be just as innovative as its American neighbors. One product of this new, inventive spirit is house production outfit Azari & III. The four-piece group has been making waves in dance music circles since "Hungry for the Power," its first 12", came out in 2009 on Cosmo Vitelli's I'm a Cliché imprint, and the Permanent Vacation follow-up, "Reckless with Your Love," made an even larger impact. Now, two years after its initial string of releases, Azari & III has finally dropped its long-planned, self-titled debut LP.
Yet, calling Azari & III an LP is a bit of a misnomer. A better way of describing it is as an augmented anthology, compilation, or "greatest hits" collection. Comprised of 11 songs, most of which have already seen release, your average consumer's response to this LP is entirely dependent on whether they have or have not already been exposed to the material. Those DJs, dancers, and music nerds who have followed the group and its frequent nods to classic house-music tropes from the beginning will find Azari & III to be nothing more than a glorified EP—albeit one with extremely strong material. On the other hand, those who have not heard these tracks before will hear an LP of unrelenting consistency—a record where catchy hooks, soulful vocals, and clever drum programming combine to create an infectiously danceable sound. However, if you combine both of these interpretations with how the record will likely be viewed in the future—as a near-perfect document of the retro-tinged sound of 2011—Azari & III begins to look pretty good.
As an introduction to the group, there is nothing better, and for continuing fans, the album's new material (lead single "Manic," in particular) stands out as some of the outfit's best work since "Reckless with Your Love." All told, Azari & III is a solid work with plenty to offer newcomers and devoted fans alike.