Review of IRIS: Six

Band : IRIS

Album: Six

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.

Review of Warsaw Pact : Extended Play 1

Band: Warsaw Pact

Album: Extended Play 1

Label: Self Release

Members: Ivan Delint , Ludwig

Warsaw Pact is the creative vision of LA based Ivan Delint and Ivan Ludwig. I first became aware of them by an outstanding remix on the Antipole album of the song Someday 45. The first thing I said to Ivan when I heard this EP is this sounds very New York living in LA. A sound of what if The Jesus and Mary Chain quit shoegaze and went post punk in Andy Warhols loft. You can really hear the post punk influence but less the popular motif of classics like Joy Division/Bauhaus, more the resurgence from Interpol/The Editors. I think the other thing that really grabbed me was how a lot of Post Punk adds layers of production and clarity to what the elders had done before to create a new sound. Warsaw Pact has attacked the equation from the other side. They started at Interpol and stripped it back with a Lo-Fi edge. The bass lines are weighted and thick, the guitars are syncopated and dance on top. It’s the big buzzing wall of fuzz created by the additional guitar and Ivan’s out front vocals that create the effect I think of as Warsaw Pact.

Emotionally what I am hearing here is an erratic and twisting story of confusion and discovery. Maybe this is what reminded me of the lyrical and cadence delivery of Jim Reid. Knowing you have something to say but doing it with that lashing trauma of youth where you just can’t find the words to express yourself. It’s actually a much more difficult emotion to capture as a song writer than you might think. It’s something I relate to and can appreciate burying myself in through someone else’s eyes. It makes me feel that Ivan still has another voice waiting to be revealed on future albums that is not so influenced by the music that shaped him.

We are somewhere between an album and an EP here at 8 tracks. I found the way the tracks were listed really interesting. With a 1st track called “Introduction” and the 4th called “Interlude I” Almost a nod to an opera or soundtrack flow of the music. Here are the songs that grabbed me most.

DeadVlei – Right in with that driving thunder bass and quick chord changes. This song more than others gave me that The Chain feel. With that back ground repeated cadence and echo washed vocals seething with intensity and edge without using volume to get the effect.

Lights – I think this track definitely has the most curbside appeal. It bounces around the puddles of a rainy dark street. Ivan’s vocals sit to the back a little more and the effect of having the bass to the front really adds a weight and power to them. I like the spoken word background breakdown. Lends a sort of art house feel to this song. If a video is shot for the album this is the song i picture first .

Midnight Cure – Very exposed in this song. The vocals charge to the front spinning around. This song is a person lost in a labyrinth wandering through the endless passages. The drums on this song have a much crisper drive in the snare snaps and it helps create motion and urgency. I want to know the rest of the story in this song, maybe I will ask Ivan in the interview.

Overall this record is the capture of a moment in time. The guitar work is stellar and puts me in mind a bit of Antipole. I love the displaced feelings, I love the New York Art House cliche’ feel. I even love that emotion of feeling lost that reminded me of New Order Movement in a where do we go from here way. However I think this also sets a bar for Ivan and company, I want another record, I want the clarity and focus of vision for the next one. I want to hear how this story ends.