Having announced themselves to the world with their acclaimed self-titled debut in 2014, ARC IRIS return this summer with their second album Moon Saloon, released 19th August on Bella Union. The Providence, Rhode Island-based band have unveiled a first track from the LP.
Moon Saloon constitutes a natural progression from the first album’s whimsical explorations. Produced by the group and mixed by electronic producer David Wrench of FKA Twigs and Caribou fame, the album showcases beat-heavy melodies and textural, groove-riding rhythms. It developed from the band’s distillations of musical influences, combining traditional elements with percussive structures and dense, beguiling harmonies. In many ways this second album captures Arc Iris’ musical odyssey as a band. “It has a heavier sound, more intense,” says Arc Iris keyboardist Zach Tenorio-Miller, who makes liberal use of sampling in many of the songs. The group matches an unusual array of organic acoustic instruments with layered electronic sounds.
Lead singer and lyricist Jocie Adams, Tenorio-Miller, and drummer Ray Belli form the core of Arc Iris, all virtuosic musicians in their own right. Adams spent eight years as a key member of indie darlings The Low Anthem, effortlessly zipping from hammer dulcimer to clarinet to bass to vocals, sometimes barely pausing to take a breath. As the band members see it, “Moon Saloon” works like a song cycle that parallels the arc of Everyman’s passage through modern day dilemmas. According to Adams: “The album is meant to be cathartic. There’s an imbalance in everyone’s lives. When there’s often so much going on, we yearn for simplicity.”
The album starts with “Kaleidoscope”, mimicking a kind of fanciful stroll down the street, and ends with the title track, a delicate soliloquy in a strange, desolate landscape. The album sometimes offers a sharp counterpoint to the mean-spirited nature of current American political discourse. One example is “Paint with the Sun,” a paean to those who help others in need. Soaring over each song is Adams’ ethereal voice, often joined in close harmonies with other members of the band.
Adams wrote most of the songs during a songwriting retreat on an island in New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee several months before the recording session. For Adams, it was a week-long creative rush with no electricity, no running water, no cell phones—just a bed in a cabin and an acoustic guitar. She took her work back to Providence, where she and Tenorio-Miller worked on the songs, layering sounds, developing ideas, “transforming them into the world of Arc Iris,” Tenorio-Miller recalls.
Arc Iris have attracted fans around the world as the group’s stage performances become storied events themselves. Space domes reveal giant golden wings in flight while montages light up the backdrop with evocative images. Above all, the group’s love of music is a shared passion that comes alive with each song. As diverse as their musical interests and influences have been, the band members find avenues for producing a blend of soul-satisfying sounds that are truly their own.