This group has grown out of the humble beginnings as Forgiving Iris to the very popular synthpop group we know today. Creating moving and creative thoughtful music to bestow upon the synth-loving masses, this group has fast become a favorite of mine in this genre. Their style is easily classified as pure synthpop with danceable beats with the occasional ballad mixed in for variety. With influences and similarities to many of the great bands that came out of the 90's, they have excellently followed suit with their own unique style building on top of a tried and true sound.
Originally formed by Reagan Jones and Matt Morris in 1993 as Forgiving Iris, they later changed their name to Iris in 1999 with the release of their highly acclaimed debut album Disconnect on A Different Drum. With excellent club tracks and hits like "Annie Would I Lie To You" and "Danger is the Shame", they were soon being heard all over the place in dance clubs and college radio shows. After a break and slight reformation of the band with Andrew Sega joining, they took a while to release their second album, but finally came through with Awakening in early 2003 on Diffusion Records. They have also released several singles from both albums and a remix album from their Disconnect tracks titled Reconnect also released on A Different Drum. The current lineup includes Reagan Jones and Andrew Sega and they continue to work hard at releasing their unique style of music. Their album in 2005 titled Wrath was another great work along with each release they come up with. These all continue to show how their sound has evolved and continues to push genre boundaries. The release of Hydra presented us with more remixes and some new tracks. 2010 brought us their latest full-length work Blacklight and the excellent single Closer to Real.
With this excellent history and nice discography behind them, they have toured as supporting act for legendary greats De/Vision in Europe and a number of other tours and festivals. If they pass by your area, you will definitely want to see this group live. Their impressive synthpop sound is excellent and worth going out and picking up what albums you can find, before they go out of print. We continue to look forward to new releases from this band and a bright future. Meanwhile you can listen to their excellent tracks on the Gothic Paradise club mix radio show.
Blacklight - Review
After just the small taste of new music from this band with the Hydra album and DVD, it's great to have a new full-length CD with these nine new tracks. This duo haven't lost anything over the years in talent and ability to put together an excellent electro-pop track and this album is packed with great material, some dance-friendly, others more along the lines of mid-tempo ballads for a bit diversity and all with excellent vocals and thought-provoking lyrics.
The excellent single "Closer To Real" kicks off this album in true Iris style, anyone familiar with this band will immediately recognize Reagan's vocals and Andrew's compositions and musical arrangements. We have a heavy bassline with layers of various synths and a solid percussion with a dance-friendly beat. Fans of the album Wrath should really enjoy this piece along with "Panic Rev" and "Red Right Return" with the darker, heavier feel in the music, moody vocals and for the most part a nice, solid beat making the tracks friendly for the dancefloor. For fans of the album Awakening with the less intense, mid-tempo pieces we have "Marianas Depths" as a true, new favorite from this disc and the closing piece "Cruel Silence", while still moving, the overall intensity is more subdued and laid back.
The entire album blends together so well, but those pieces stand out as new favorites after the first few times I listened to the album as I tend to compare with past works, and keep in mind any new ideas the artists may have put together. They definitely don't get stuck in a rut with these pieces, because while they're so easily recognized as Iris through all the subtle, and not-so-subtle details (namely Reagan's easily recognizable vocals), they still remain innovative and creative in their sound and the tracks on this album. It's definitely another masterpiece in the collection
As an added bonus to any collector or fan of this band, they've also released a four-track single of Closer To Real. As with many singles, this is a great disc for DJ's to pick up to have my favorite and probably the most dance-friendly pieces from the album as a special release and with alternate remixes. The album version of the title track appears, as well as "Panic Rev", another fast-paced, club track for the dance floors. We get a treat with a "Club Mix" of this latter track which is mixed in such a way that is perfect for club DJs to put together a great dance mix. Stromkern is the only guest band that gets credit for the bonus remixes with their mix of "Closer To Real". Ned Kirby always manages to put a unique spin on tracks that he gets his hands on, and with this piece he definitely deconstructs it and puts it all back together as his own. The bassline remains somewhat monotonous and it seems to be a much more all-electronic take on the track, and quite a bit more minimalistic since the bass is nearly the only instrument you hear except for the beautiful, yet simplistic piano interludes and backup sounds.
Both the album and single come highly recommended. If you're an Iris fan, this is a must-have. If you're new to the band, but enjoy bands like Depeche Mode, De/Vision, Wolfsheim or any other related synthpop-based band, you'll love Iris and their own unique style.
Hydra - Review
Here we have the latest work from this excellent group. Though it's not an album full of all new tracks, it is still a great work and a nice collector's piece. It was released just prior to the band doing their spring tour around much of North America and contains three exclusive new tracks that just pick right up where we left off with Wrath. In addition to these dynamic pieces we're treated with ten remixes that span a number of electronica styles. But the fun doesn't stop there, also included is a bonus DVD of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of their tours and shows.
For me the best part of the disc are the three new tracks which Gothic Paradise radio listeners will be very familiar with by now. "New Invaders" is the first of the three which is presented in 100% Iris style with pulsating electronics, guitar and Reagan's solid melodic vocals. This is a moving piece with a lot of dynamic layers wrythe and move perfectly as the lyrics send out the meaning behind it all. Starting off with more of an electronica style "Stop Breaking Your Own Heart" is another stellar piece. It's heavy and dripping with emotion especially as the chorus hits and title comes through in the lyrics. The guitar stands out a lot on this piece and we can start to see how great it was that they picked up that instrument for their albums for some added depth to the music. Taking it down a notch in tempo and intensity, though still dripping with emotional grace "Nobody Wins" becomes another great mid-tempo piece hearkening back to the days of Awakening. The power still comes out throughout the track as the chorus kicks in and so do the grinding guitars and pulsating layers of electronics.
Once through these pieces we hit the remixes. Some remixes are better than others, some capture the original feeling while others just take the pieces in a totally different direction. The underlying theme on these remixes are that they're all based solidly on the electronica genres out there today. The first two pieces are remixed by Andrew Sega himsel, so they don't deviate too much from the original pieces "It Generates (Darker Days Mix V2)" and "Wait Move On (Andrew's Detective Mix)". Then we get into the pieces that start to move on into the other realms of electronica. "Lands of Fire (Datguy Mix)" is a real trancy electronica piece that doesn't really click with my tastes too much. However, this same piece is later remixed by Mesh and is an excellent dance-friendly rendition that comes out great. The rest of the pieces remain in that experimental electronica genre and so it sort of wanders on until we come to a close with "Delivered One" in a sort of hypnotic mix.
The bonus DVD is a nice touch. It would have been fun to have some music video clips of some of their popular tracks, but it was nice to sit down and get to know the band a little more. After watching that I felt like we were all good friends and that at any time if I saw them on the street, they would greet me as we had known each other well for years. I think that makes a good documentary, the members share their lives, their dreams, their good times and bad times as well as a little bit of their lives outside of the music. This is definitely a nice collector's piece to pick up.
Wrath - Review
It has been two years since Iris' excellent sophomore album Awakening which showed the world how dynamic and powerful this band could be. Now it's time for their third album Wrath which provides more proof of the dynamic styles and solid talents of this duo. I think that any Iris fans have been awaiting this new album on pins and needles to see where their music would take us. From the first time I put this album in my player I knew that we had another great work that won't soon be forgotten.
Much like their previous work, the band moves away from the techno and dance-friendly elements of synthpop and continue to experiment in various electronics for a solid, more alternative sound that's still perfect for synth and electro-pop fans. "Lands of Fire" kicks off the album with some solid electronic work that reaches out and grabs the listener for the duration of the album. The beat is steady full percussion and the moods are varied, but overal expressive of life in general. "It Generates" contains lyrics that help explain these thoughts as the smooth vocals portray them over a backdrop of smooth electronic hooks. With lines like "We all dine, then we all die", this is just a small taste of the thoughtful elements of this album.
As I listen to this album over and over again, there isn't any one track that stands out as a single or club-hit, but the album as a whole is what makes this work so great. The pieces mix so well without any real ups and downs, despite the varied emotional moods portrayed. While it's hard to pick out a favorite, probably the most dynamic and powerful track is "Hell's Coming With Me". As the title says, this piece is quite powerful with added layers of guitars, synths and excellent production. This piece and "Appetite" have something of the most dance-friendly tracks that are quite catchy and will have the listener singing or dancing along.
To wrap up the album is a sweet, slow ballad-like piece titled "Delivered One". Like many other bands along these genre lines, Iris has proved that they can put away the drums and driving beats and synths for pieces like this one that is captivating in it's own mellow peacefulness. And that brings the work to a close, leaving the listener satisfied at having 10 great new tracks to listen to and enjoy for many years to come.
Reconnect - Review
With the release of their popular debut album Disconnect, a few singles were released which quickly went out of print due to their incredible popularity. Building on these originally released singles, a full-length CD was put together including some of these original mixes as well as several new takes on these popular tracks. This is an excellent piece of this group's history, marking something of a milestone in their success, celebrating the popularity of an excellent debut album.
The original album Disconnect was a pure masterpiece of synthpop music. Slamming beats with a solid bass and well-mixed synths all provided for very well-written and popular dance tracks. These were apparent in the rapid depletion of the printed singles. This talent and popularity is well deserved and portrayed in this compilation of great remixes by other talented artists in this scene.
The album starts off with an excellent rendition of probably the most popular Iris track "Annie Would I Lie To You". T.O.Y. add their stellar sound to an already solid track for a darker sounding and moving mix of this song. This disc includes two other mixes of this popular track, including the over 7 minute long "Y1.999k Extension" mix of this track. Adding a few more minutes of the driving and excellent music to this original track, it has fast become a favorite of mine which appeared on the original single. A new remix appearing on this album is from Wideband Network with their unique perspective on this track, toning it down quite a bit, adding some vocoding to the vocals and just adding an overall techno feel to it.
Fans of this group will love many of the other additions to this album making it a "must have" for synthpop fans. "Lose In Wanting (Lovett's Sonar Eclipse Mix)" appears on this compilation which also appeared on the original single. This is one of the better tracks released by this group showing once again their solid synthpop sound with emotional elements that just make it that much more meaningful and nicer to listen to on and off the dance floor. I was also very pleased to see the "Refraction Mix" of another very popular moving track "Danger is the Shame".
The overall compilation of tracks is a true gem on this album. Most of the remixes fit quite well with the overall concept. This is definitely a good album to listen to, without the problem that singles and the various remixes that sometimes are more detracting or degrading than just listening to the track from the album. This is a great way to present alternate remixes with a great variety of popular and excellent tracks by this group.
Awakening - Review
After reviewing the new remix album Reconnect, it was a little surprising to put the second album by this synthpop group into my cd player and be presented with a great selection of mostly mid-tempo synthpop ballads. Along the lines of some of the latest work by De/Vision the tempo of most of the tracks on this album slow down and we're presented with a slow-moving stream of thoughtful lyrics, moving vocals and music that all comes together perfectly in a slightly different, yet still recognizable Iris style.
I've always been a believer in variety, and so this album really sparks my interest and I have to say that I'm quite pleased with it. From the very beginning with the slowly building "Whatever", we're presented with a mid-tempo, yet solid track with layered guitars and synths. The listener is carried on a musical adventure through varying soundscapes and ending with the beautifully written, slow-paced and somewhat minimal track "Island".
With these two tracks providing the beginning, setting the tone and leaving us with a cool-down finale, what's in between is what I really love. I really think this group has taken a solid approach with these songs. "Unknown" is a great example of this talent and concept. Yet if you've heard the "sub-rosa mix" of this track, you realize the incredible potential that lies behind the solid foundation of this track. Now let me jump to the incredible cover of Seven Red Seven's track "You're The Answer". This is one of my favorite tracks from their Shelter album. So to have one of my favorite new synthpop bands take this track and add their own moving style to it, it really just gives me chills to listen to it. Fans that are familiar with this song and have heard this cover will know exactly what I'm talking about.
While it's not packed full of moving, dancefloor-friendly tracks, it does have a few of these, the overall attraction to this album has to be the mature and solid style presented. This is definitely a must-have for synthpop fans, especially those that have enjoyed the latest De/Vision works.
Label: Diffusion Records