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I guess there could have been a "too many cooks" idiom applied to Arc Iris' former constitution as they apparently began life as an eight piece band, but reduced their members to just three. Remaining are vocalist and founder Jocie Adams; keyboardist and sample guru Zach Tenorio-Miller, and Ray Belli on drums. To be fair, I haven't heard the band's previous two albums (this is my first encounter with their music), so "too many cooks" is probably way out, as they might've always composed and produced magnificent sonic delights equal to the musical majesty of what we have here on their third album, 'Icon of Ego'. And, although they might be minimalist in constitution as a mere trio, the music is far from such, as it's been layered with all kinds of interesting sounds that've been blended within nine cuts of refined musical experimentation, while retaining accessible appeal and oozing a whole ton of charisma.

There's something all very "art rock" about this, la Bent Knee, another quirky stateside act; a comparison made more immediate and emphatic through Adams' vocal similarities to said band's Courtney Swain. Both ladies have quite the range, and a distinct tonality to their delivery, that's as captivating as it is engaging. Compositionally, the similarities reside within their parameter pushing proclivities, yet exercised within the context of songwriting that never veers into pretentious, leftfield territory. Songs on 'Icon of Ego' are undoubtedly leftfield; they've evidently composed and made music outside of the box here, yet it's all very well-rounded in terms of the emotional depths it conveys. It never feels innovative just for the sake of trying to be different - like I said, it's free of pretension.

In general, the songs on 'Icon of Ego' could be described as progressive pop - in fact, the "pop-prog" tag rears its head in press blurb for the album - yet that'd be too simplified and misleading as a description. Sure, there are commercial handles to many of the tracks, which could loosely posit them within some kind of pop conception; and the compositions have been reified in beautifully layered ways, with all kinds of unpredictably transitional shifts, that show a great deal of innovative proclivities, invariably associated with genuine prog. However, Arc Iris are neither prog nor pop. They are their own emotionally charged force. And one I wholeheartedly recommend checking out. I sincerely hope they reach the wide audience that they deserve. As I've already said, Bent Knee fans would adore this, but I fear 'Icon of Ego' will pass by those who lap up everything released by the always reliable label to which Courtney Swain's crew are signed, and record company stalwarts of the innovative music scene, Inside Out. So, Inside Out fans take note: check out Arc Iris immediately!
Ba Da Bing Records
Review by Mark Holmes
12th October 2018
1) $GNMS
2) Dylan & Me
3) If You Can See
4) Turn It Up
5) Icon of Ego
6) Chattermachines
7) Beautiful Mind
8) Everybody's Counting on Her
9) Suzy
"...layered with all kinds of interesting sounds that've been blended within nine cuts of refined musical experimentation, while retaining accessible appeal and oozing a whole ton of charisma."