Demoscene, Indie Music, Reviews

Going Into Panic Rev: Iris Changes Color With Blacklight (Review)

September 8, 2010 | | 6 Comments Share thison Facebook Going Into Panic Rev: Iris Changes Color With Blacklight (Review)on Twitter

What’s that?  You haven’t heard of Iris?  While I can’t necessarily blame you for missing out on this talented synth pop duo among the sea of music out there on the Internet, Iris has for many years been one of my favorite electronic acts around.  With Reagan Jones handling songwriting and vocals and demoscene legend Andrew Sega on keyboards and programming, the two make a deadly combination that you really ought to familiarize yourself with.  Think Depeche Mode… but better.

What better time to check them out than with the release of their new album, Blacklight?  While I fell in love with Jones’s ethereal vocals and Sega’s dreamy electronic backings on their 2003 album, Awakening, Blacklight takes a different approach, delving into darker territory with an emphasis on techno-like beats and brooding themes.

Hit the jump to find out if this new direction works and where to pick up Iris’s past work.

First off, I think you’ll find Blacklight to be pretty accessible at just 9 tracks totaling about 40 minutes of music.  I already mentioned that the album is heavier than their past efforts which admittedly makes the individual tracks a bit less fun to sing along with overall, but true to their roots, there are still some incredibly catchy chorus sections here.

As it turns out, my two favorite tracks, “xWires” and “Panic Rev,” are probably the darkest of the bunch.  Jones adopts an unsettling talk-singing style for the verses in “xWires” while the chorus section is much more varied despite the distressing lyrics.  “Panic Rev” on the other hand, chugs along with a driving techno beat and rapid synth lines.  The chorus section here highlights one of Iris’s key strengths: beautiful simplicity.  Jones never gets too long winded or tries to work in big words just for the sake of doing so; each lyric is concise and to the point.

The opening track, “Closer to Real,” works in the 80s synth pop goodness that fans of Iris are well acquainted with, but is considerably more intense with its snappy percussion, thick synth bass, and abrasive electronic embellishments.   Later, the swing introduced by the percussion in both “Disintegrate” and “Prophetic” offer a nice change of pace, with the chorus section in “Disintegrate” providing one of the most memorable moments on the album.

Both “The Marianas Depths” and “Fighter” present a more upbeat listening experience.  The lovely electronic guitar work in “The Marianas Depths” adds a bit of an organic feel despite the heavy use of electronic effects, and I found the fat, warbling bassline to be rather playful.  “Fighter,” on the other hand, is a procedural electronic track that slowly builds upon itself.  While the lyrics aren’t particularly captivating, the sound of Jones’s voice works perfectly alongside the synthesized musical accompaniment.

“Cruel Silence” closes out the album on a contemplative note.  The heavy use of reverb throughout the entire track imparts an otherworldly quality.  I get a strong retro vibe from this one, from Sega’s seemingly demo-style backing to Jones’s 80s-inspired vocals.  I think the aforementioned reverb contributes heavily in this regard.

One thing I do want to mention is that the mixing on this album is fantastic.  I gave Awakening (2003) another listen after checking out Blacklight, and while I couldn’t stop myself from singing along with every track on the album despite not having heard it in a couple years, I felt the vocals were sometimes engulfed by the music.  Not this time.  Every word on this album is crystal clear, and even Sega’s work stands more in the forefront if it’s even possible for both elements to do so.  I’m really impressed by the quality that Iris has achieved with Blacklight.

The album’s booklet is pretty simple, containing the lyrics for all of the songs, with lots of black and purple dominating the packaging.  Blacklight is a great album, and may even prove to be a better entry point for listeners who lean more towards the electronic side than the pop side that Iris’s earlier works more heavily represent, and I recommend checking out the group’s official website and picking it up.  It’s available for $12.00 from A Different Drum, and I encourage you to check out the duo’s older albums there as well.  You won’t regret it!

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