Band : IRIS
Label: Dependent records
Members: Reagan Jones / Andrew Sega
Hometown: Austin Tx
So IRIS is a band I was a little late to the game on. Their first album was “Awakening” back in 2004. However my dear friend Sunil Khanna at Darkest Before Dawn in Austin told me I needed to check this out, and he hasn’t been wrong yet. This album was no exception.
So what jumps out at me right away. Multiple pedal Shoegaze guitar slush…check. Beautifully produced shake your body 80’s fuzed Synthwave dance beats…check. Place in the blender at medium speed and seamlessly swirl to that place where textural beauty meets pop sensibility. This album covers a lot of ground with a lot of different sounds. Yet, when it’s at its best is when these two elements come together in glorious synthesis. Reagan Jones has this wonderful warm Curt Smith (Tears For Fears) quality to his vocals that captivate and ring with clarity but don’t steal from the sizzling back beat of the music. Maybe that is the other piece that reminds me of well done Shoegaze. Just when he has you in a lull sinking into the warm memorizing music, he cuts to the front and belts a laser beam note that reminds you of the power of his voice.
This band took a fairly long hiatus from 2014-2019 and the maturity of these songs really shows in the smooth even production. It doesn’t have a lot of edge but makes up for that with a genuine and spiritual wisdom. I feel like it can be a hard thing to find in the modern era of beep boop synth pop. It’s that refinement that made this record stand out in the landscape. It also made me really hope to see this band live because I feel like the extra ferocity of a stage performance would add another level of dynamic.
Lets talk about some stand out tracks because while the record didn’t have enormous stylistic dynamic, it definitely changed the flavor in subtle ways from song to song.
Joy Kill – A nice medium tempo Lo-Fi creeper which jumps up for the chorus with a great pop hook. Definitely one where Jones hits another gear in his range then steps back to an easy cadence that lets the swirling synth lines take center stage. Beautiful and expressive.
Pure White Snow – This song really made that synthesis of buzzing slush and clean tone dance beat come together. The imagery was great as well. “Blood Moon so soon, do you hear my cry in vain” I love the subtle computerized effect on the voice which makes it feel very modern while the music was so New Wave.
Take The Pain – They cranked up the drive for this one. Bass way to the front and let the vocals echo off the back. This song speaks to the duality of what they are achieving and sings a concept easy to relate to. It’s a song with enough bass umph to drive folk to the dance floor, but enough depth to make you listen once you get home from the club.
Overall I really enjoyed this album for the blending and the professional quality. It makes me want to dig back into their catalog. I don’t feel like this album was reinventing the wheel but not all of them need to. Sometimes it’s about taking elements you love and honing them together then adding a level of clarity which make that synthesis sound like it was always meant to be together. That’s what IRIS has done with this album and it is an effect I’m glad I gave the attention to.