Iris & Ivory avoids all cliches

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Iris & Ivory

      Habit (Independent)

      Billing himself as “a tormented soul from the ’90s” who “uses his influences from a wide variety of music to illustrate a few bad years of his life”, Raymond M. Pelke of Iris & Ivory conjures images of a black metal, aggressive postpunk, or—god forbid—emo band. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

      The Vancouver native’s six-track album, Habit, oscillates somewhere between upbeat folk, country, and indie, taking the best from each without bowing to any of the genres’ clichés. Standout track “Don’t Lose It”, for instance, sees a bluesy slide-guitar intro give way to rich, atmospheric guitar chords accented by rippling keyboard melodies, topped by a vocal Stephen Malkmus would be proud of. Which is a description that we’re confident we’ll never write again.

      Pelke’s strength lies in imagining musical combinations that, on paper, seem ridiculous—violins, accordions, and honky-tonk keyboard, anyone?—but in his hands are both catchy and highly listenable. Although mixing such diverse genres on one album typically leads to an incongruous mess, Pelke’s thematic through-lines and chorus-heavy structures make for an exciting coherence.

      Instrumentation isn’t the only thing that varies across the record, with Pelke’s vocals becoming similarly malleable. “Sing It All Away”, for instance, sees the musician experimenting with a more grunge-like tone—underscored, of course, by ’80s synth stabs, warm violin lines, and angelic female backing vocals—while the title track too sees the singer mellowing his Eddie Vedder–esque edge with soft acoustic guitars and a lively funk bass line.

      Subtle and multifaceted, then, Habit is just the opposite. Far from routine and predictable, the record proves how to take musical risks and—however unexpectedly—pull it off.

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays