Third time lucky for Arc Iris on Icon of Ego

Icon of EgoIcon of Egos is Arc Iris’ third attempt at an album. It represents something of a sea change for the group, dispensing the bouncy maximalist-folk of their previous records for something that eludes any kind of easy definition. It’s theatrical and grand in scale, while also being playful and iconoclastic. To pull something off that marries these seemingly disparate qualities takes some chutzpah. On this record, the three-piece manage to carry out a musical feat akin to staring you directly in the eye, while relieving you of your trousers without your knowledge.

It's fair to say this is by far the most interesting thing they’ve put out so far. Perhaps there were hints of what was to come on 2016’s Moon Saloon, but nothing to fully ready us for the intensity and bombast of Icon of Ego. Since the former record, Arc Iris are down a cellist, who – naturally – has gone to Afghanistan to teach her trade. Good luck to her. The remaining three members of the group, which once upon a time was an eight-piece, don’t seem to have too much trouble filling the space.

You can't claim this is a revolutionary record – it’s a collection of very interesting, ambitious, and accomplished pop songs. As stated above, it’s hard to really assign a genre category. Opening number “$GMNS” (no idea) flits between operatic rock, electro clash, and leftfield vocal pop. The rest of the numbers are less internally erratic, but they do try out a lot of different things over the course of the album – from some kind of sci fi-chamber pop on “If You Can See” to a take on trad jazz in “Everybody’s Counting of Her” to post-rock on “Icon of Ego”.

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You can detect a host of influences synonymous with confidence and creativity. There’s no small amount of St Vincent shimmer coursing through the record's veins; a little bit of the genre-disrespecting soulfulness of TV on the Radio; lushness that sits somewhere between In Rainbows-era Radiohead or latter-day Grizzly Bear; and even something of the stately cinematic scale of Brian Wilson or the studied discomfiture of the late stage The Beatles (it's all in the strings).

Vocalist Jocie Adams, once of The Low Anthem, is a commanding presence. She’s like a slightly more conventional version of CocoRosie’s Bianca Casady, ranging from ethereal to strident, and taking in some soulful hip-hop along the way.

There’s a chance this record might alienate their fan base. But if you’re looking for something interesting and new to ring in the dark season of the year, then Arc Iris are very much deserving of your attention.

Released: 12th October 2018, Ba Ding Records

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2 Responses to “Third time lucky for Arc Iris on Icon of Ego”

  1. D J Bentley 27/10/2018 at 7:08 pm #

    Enjoyed your review but it’s Icon (singular) of Ego and the Afghanistan cellist is a she.

    • Tiffany Daniels 28/10/2018 at 10:37 am #

      My fault for missing that, corrected now. Thanks!

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