Difficult to get a hold of, but well worth the effort.
‘IRIS‘ is Reb Fountain’s second release and it see’s the San Francisco born. transported to New Zealand singer-songwriter make a grab for that modern folk crossed with Electronica and the occasional nod to Kate Bush, the acknowledged Queen of the peculiar pop song. All the while retaining her own distinct voice. Album opener ‘Psyche‘ deals out hands for several of these musical directions, with a haunted piano and violin introduction and a complex play of lyrics in several voices which hint towards both the classical allusion of the Greek Psyche and the more modern connection of an exploration of consciousness. It’s strange, a little disorientating but quite addictively listenable. Second up, ‘Foxbright‘, places us onto more solid ground – with a guitar line that may bring thoughts of Aldous Harding’s ‘The Barrel‘ to mind – not so surprising since both Harding and Fountain were active in the same local alt-folk scene and were both in the band The Eastern, but not at the same time. The song explore insecurities with Fountain singing of fears of love, and an urge to “take to the burrow when in headlight” and sees in this a pattern of withdrawal “I feel the same about parties, rather stay at home.”
‘Invisible Man‘ continues a theme of anxieties, wavering between strident up-tempo sections and more withdrawn quieter sections. Alongside the almost child-like pronouncement of an intention to try and film the Invisible Man, there are worrying questions about the ability to function as an individual “will I disappear when you’re not around?” Not everything dwells in the inner-mind though, under layers of sound ‘Fishermen‘ is nothing short of a protest song, taking the rich world to task for being unfeeling to the point of hypocrisy to those desperate for better lives: “little lost children washing up in waves / We’ll be fishing their bodies from the Ocean for days / Hanging our heads on their unmarked graves / They couldn’t be saved, no, they couldn’t be saved.”
There’s also love, as on the title song, where a lover can excite on the one hand and be so disappointing on the other “What’s in your heart that you cannot speak of love? Baby you’re my Uranium” Fountain heart-breakingly sings. ‘Heart‘ touches on similar themes, a full passion leading to a fully broken heart, and an unrequited lingering love “lost my love only just found it couldn’t even hold it“, while an electronic keyboard weeps in the background.
‘IRIS‘ is probably not the album for those who cleave to a narrow definition of Americana – but if Joanna Newsom, Aldous Harding, Mercury Rev and Ricky Lee Jones would all be welcome at your Americana party then you should send Reb Fountain an invitation too.