Posts Tagged ‘Moon Saloon’

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 When the video for Arc Iris‘ song “Moon Saloon” opens, what you can see looks like a view of the moon from above. But when you looks closer, it’s a vast winterscape, an empty field in rural Massachusetts, shot from above with a 360 degree camera. As the scene rotates and spirals, the figure of Jocie Adams, of the Rhode Island-based dream-folk band Arc Iris, appears: sometimes tiny, like a dot you would see from the view of an airplane, sometimes close enough to the camera that you can see a smile on her face and the yellow balloon she’s carrying in contrast with the snow and the crest of a night sky in the background.

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‘Kaleidoscope’ appears on the upcoming album ‘Moon Saloon’ from Arc Iris.

In an interview with NPR Music over email, Jocie Adams shared how this stunning video was made: “Using 6 cameras to capture a single 360 degree view of the scene, directors Julia Liu and Keith Heyward could distort our world into a surreal moon-like planet. The six cameras took about 48 hours to render as a single video, which meant we had days of suspense before learning what our work amounted to. I believe that this piece is philosophically a punk piece of art in that it makes use of modern technology but disregards the modern standards of attention.”

Sonically, “Moon Saloon” is a wonderful slow burner. The instrumentation is sparse, just Adams‘ soprano and her band playing gorgeously reverberant cello and distorted guitar. The cello moves in slowly arcing crescendos that pair beautifully with Adams‘ lyrics. In a particularly powerful moment towards the end of the song, Adams sings: “With devotion there’s pain / And the moon’s not a toy / Nor is this beautiful boy. / What’s going on?” As Adams notes, its a song about desire and alternate realities. “Moon Saloon” is what it feels like when you stay up late thinking about the way things could’ve gone. It’s a heartbreaker enveloped in deeply beautiful and complicated textures and layers of sound.

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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.