blue states, memphis industries' first signing and mainstay of the label, are back with their fourth album. with 'first steps into...' blue states return whence they came - for all intents and purposes, a one-man band as on the first album, 'nothing changes under the sun'. having previously worked with vocalist tahita on the second album, 'man mountain', and turned into a full-fledged three-piece on the third, 'the soundings', blue states is again the sole work of andy dragazis, save for the able assistance of sam walker on drums and a string section. heavily treated vocal duties are shared between dragazis and serena strong. the album was recorded in dragazis' studio in whitechapel, scheduled around the next-door mosque's prayer time, and interrupted frequently by angry imams. beginning with 'allies' and its otherworldly vocal line, 'first steps into...' is melodically dense and richly textured. the album draws inspiration from vangelis, aphrodite's child, the moody blues, david axlerod, and joe meek, and dragazis weaves a rare subtlety throughout, climaxing in 'last of old england' which builds from the bells of a greek orthodox church to an string-laden climax replete with zeppelin drums. lovely.