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Splendidzine reviews Isidore Print E-mail
Friday, 11 March 2005
Originally published at http://www.splendidezine.com/review.html?reviewid=11089837241426063  
Isidore is a peculiar -- but these days, not altogether uncommon -- entity. Crafting their self-titled album across sometimes expansive distances, a la Gibbard and Tamborello, Jeffrey Cain (of Remy Zero) and Steve Kilbey (of The Church) spent many months exchanging the ideas that would eventually crystallize in this collection of haunted tracks. They were obviously made with care and consideration, forming a weighty expanse of ethereal pop that sounds like it was recorded in a blacklit cathedral. Isidore is not so much experimental as it is somewhat bizarre; folky acoustic guitars and melodies collide with glitches, cavernous swells of synthetic sounds and understated electric guitars.

You'd expect such a mix to be strange and jarring, but Isidore's arrangements are impeccably organized and naturally fluid. Kilbey's vocals, frayed and dusty, mingle perfectly with Cain's delicate songs, matching their listless instrumentation with smoky romanticism. Cain's melodies are nearly bulletproof, quickly establishing themselves as the songs' backbones, winding through various paces and rhythms with ease. Kilbey never falls behind, his confident voice doing serious melodic work to fully flesh out each track. The album's production is flawless, isolating the driving elements in each arrangement and lending them a gently worn feel.

Plenty of highlights mark the album's unconventional, lugubrious path. "Sanskrit" is the most remarkable of them, a perfect dark pop song that's most reminiscent of The Verve's A Northern Light. It not only navigates a superb melody in a blurred forest of synthetic strings, acoustic guitars and programmed percussion, but swells with a magnificent chorus and a beautiful guitar hook, then transitions into a deeply complex, electronics-heavy bridge. "Transmigration"'s angelic electric riff makes a similarly profound impact, and its chorus melody is as strong as you'll find in any pop song. "Ghosting", warmly wrapping its Dntel-like glitch pop around bursts of reverse-looped guitar, makes an unexpected shift into an echoing piano-led chorus, subtly insinuating a lovely keyboard melody into its ambling instrumentation. Kilbey's lyrics, a combination of surreal images and deeply felt emotions, are the cherry on top of tracks like "Nothing New", in which he croons "The feeling was absent / The red wine was blue / The gift is the present / But that's nothing new to you / Oh now it's all for nothing."

In general, two things stand out about Isidore: first, that the enmeshing of Kilbey's contributions with Cain's doesn't sound like the product of mail-order songwriting at all; second, unlike The Postal Service's Give Up, it's almost perfectly consistent. Only once does its hypnotic flow break, and that's with the strange, semi-political and unnecessary monologue that opens "CA. Redemption Value". Its ensuing, steadily building arrangement would've sounded complete on its own, as Kilbey cryptically sings "Christ / I need some new advice / This is an old device / It's for the lucky guys." Other than that single jarring moment, Isidore weave a completely entrancing web in which each new element shakes their shimmering threads of melody and atmosphere like a heart tremor. Hoping for the continuation of purported one-off projects like this one can be a futile affair, but the vast compositional talent and emotional heft that Isidore brings to bear warrants that hope; it's one of the best, most unique collaborations you'll hear. Yeah, it's even better than Give Up.


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