Friday, September 30, 2016

Moon Saloon

If I had to describe Moon Saloon by Arc Iris in one word, I would choose the word 'colourful'. I don't appear to be the only one, either; in their review of Moon SaloonThe Line of Best Fit made mention of the album's tendency towards "technicolour star-gazing" described its sound as being "dyed in a myriad of colours".

It's irrational, of course, to describe music in this way. Saying that an album 'sounds colourful' is a bit like saying that a flower 'smells red': unless you've got some form of synesthesia, it doesn't really make sense.

But then, listening to Moon Saloon is a rather synesthetic experience. You can almost see the warm golds and oranges dripping from the bells of the brass instruments in She Arose; the spotless blue sky that soars above you during the banjo break in Pretending; the rainbows shooting out of the piano on new single Paint with the Sun.

Moon Saloon is an enthralling, richly varied listen, and Arc Irirs seem to become any number of different bands over the course of these ten tracks. One minute you're listening to The Divine Comedy, then to Beth Jeans Houghton before she became Du Blonde, then to Rush or Yes or one of that crowd. I love that we live in an era where anyone can throw together an album in their bedroom using widely-available technology, but it's nonetheless thrilling when an album like this comes along, an album that could only have been the fruit of many, many hours spent writing, arranging, rehearsing and recording. Attack of the Grey Lantern by Mansun and Through the Windowpane by the Guillemots are two other such albums, and they're both among my favourite LPs of all time.

Still, as you listen and relisten to Moon Saloon, you get the impression that all of that engrossing, enchanting colour is something that Jocie Adams (Arc Iris's commander-in-chief). On Saturation Brain - the most showstopping of this album's showstoppers, not to mention the most absurdly and exhilaratingly proggy track of the ten - Adams sings:

"Get your thoughts away from the garish day-to-day...that will saturate your brain"

Perhaps this is why the album's title track finds Adams yearning to fly to space and be alone with her thoughts in a more tranquil environment. Moon Saloon is noticeably calmer and more sparse-sounding than the songs that precede it, and it becomes clear that the moon - a monotonous, grey, empty world - is something of a happy place for our narrator, who evidently feels overwhelmed by the garish, over-saturated colours that cloud her head on Earth.

In fact, one of the album's very last lines is essentially a plea, addressed at all the noise and kerfuffle of daily life:

"Do I have to run away? Please don't make me run away."

Moon Saloon is a colourful album, for sure, but it's also an album about what it feels like when all of that colour gets too much. It yearns for a place to sit and think, to ponder the really big questions like "What is reality?" and "What's freedom anyway?" and "Who am I?" The music gets livelier and more colourful from one song to the next - penultimate track Rainy Days features a notably kickass funk section - but that last one, Moon Saloon itself, gives you pause to wonder whether you really want to be in there amongst the hustle and bustle...or up there, where you could have the whole place to yourself without any of the obligations and stresses you deal with right now. As the Adams puts it on Rainy Days: "day-to-day is good when you are the whole world".

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