It was an encounter with one of these fragments that inspired the name for Azu Tiwaline’s latest EP for I.O.T Records, ‘Vesta’, which features tracks that were written and recorded around the same time as ‘Magnetic Service’, her break-through EP for Livity Sound. Holding a piece of Vesta that had been found in the Saharan Desert - already a place of deep significance for her - she felt a sense of wonder, on a cosmic scale. In her hands, was an object so apparently familiar, of the same age and made of the same fundamental materials as the Earth on which she stood, yet from somewhere else entirely. A perfect name for the four tracks that make up ‘Vesta’. And also the perfect source material for the EP’s cover, an electron microscope image of a razor-thin slice of that same cosmic fragment that Azu held in her hand.
‘Vesta’ is familiar, yet distinct. It’s recognizably Azu Tiwaline from the very start, yet the unexpected always finds a way in. A booming, echoing kick opens ‘Lowww’, followed by the rattling, shivering sound of a tanbur hand-drum, courtesy of his regular collaborator, Franco-Iranian percussionist and producer Cinna Peyghamy. But then, tentatively at first, a jazzy synth line emerges, and disappears again, only to reappear later. An another colour to add to Azu Tiwaline’s already rich palette?
Azu Tiwaline’s music has always explored the dynamics between space and depth, and the contrasts between light and density. ‘Vesta’ often feels like a high-wire act, an exercise in finding space even as the air fills with drum patterns and synth lines. ‘Medium Time’ builds from a chorus of buzzing insects into a thick percussive track across eight minutes, without ever losing that initial wide-open sound of the dusk. ‘Into The Void’ pays homage to her well-worn collection of Rhythm & Sound and Basic Channel 12-inch singles, all swaying dub echoes and languid kick drums. Then mid-track, it pivots in intensity, each element suddenly expanded and magnified: a psychedelic shift. Those who’ve had the chance to see Azu Tiwaline perform in the past few years might get a few flashbacks - it’s been a key part of her live set.
But it’s the final track ‘Deep Theko’ that best fits the EP’s cosmic title. A shape-shifting ‘ambient’ track that never seems to settle, it drifts restlessly, sporadic percussion and synth washes injecting random bursts of activity. A sonic representation of planetary debris floating through space? Here, as with the airless void of space, emptiness enables a certain perspective. If the distances between the stars weren’t so enormous, we wouldn’t be able to gaze upon them in their entirety, after all.