ARC IRIS – ” Moon Saloon “

Posted: August 12, 2016 in MUSIC
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For all its inventiveness using traditional Americana instrumentation, Arc Iris’ 2014 self-titled debut still was primarily that – traditional Americana, wrung through a number of early-mid 20th century musical genres. The album’s two-part “Honor Of The Rainbows” couplet was the lone patch where the band’s recorded material seemed to fit with its glittery psychedelic stage identity, and it’s from here that they springboard headlong into technicolour star-gazing of follow-up Moon Saloon.

Lead track and single “Kaleidoscope” couldn’t be more representative of Arc Iris and their M.O. on Moon Saloon, offering the listener a reflection of them from nearly every angle, dyed in a myriad of colours. While banjos and pedal steel are still identifiable on occasion throughout, Moon Saloon is built on loud and proud strings, horns, and keyboards. Pulling heavily from the grandiosity of 1970s pop and prog, it’s actually a testament to Arc Iris’ dizzying flair for arrangement that those hints of Americana can so comfortably fit in these songs.

Just as on the debut, Moon Saloon’s base sonic template is churned through multiple classic American musical genres – gospel-flavoured soul on “Lilly”, salacious barroom ragtime on “Johnny”, and “Rainy Days” panoramic musical cinema. At times, Moon Saloon wants for the debut’s periods of respite as the tracks that do begin peacefully all burst open in our faces at some point. Arc Iris veer close to parody at times, but they approach everything here with such earnest playfulness that one gets the sense the band simply peer over that precipice and throw their heads back in laughter.

Like any album leaning so heavily on ‘70s prog rock, Moon Saloon follows a loose song cycle featuring a male and female duo of protagonists down on their luck and seeking peace of mind through simple, everyday human actions and emotions. It’s Arc Iris’ simultaneous dedication to their virtuosic execution and commitment to not take themselves too seriously that largely pulls it all off, even when they hit peak-ham on “Saturation Brain”. The closing title track’s spareseness is jarring following “Rainy Days” credits-rolling close, yet its curiosity prompts you to turn around and dive right into Moon Saloon again.

While summer typically lends itself to instantly gratifying earworm jams and barren release schedules, in Moon Saloon, Arc Iris have served us an album entirely unconcerned with nascent fads and just as heavy on challenge as it is reward.

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