The cyberspace supergroup known as Isidore
By Andy Argyrakis
From the pages of the official publicity biography
An ethereal guitar progression collides with entrancing vocals. They're met by an emotional lyrical outpouring steeped in evocative observations and moody metaphors. From there, a sense of beauty and wonder transports the listener from earthliness to the ultimate supernatural utopia. Simultaneously, the music serves as a serene chill out soundtrack and a soul-penetrating burst of vivaciousness, implemented with precision and passion. The enigma is Isidore, incredibly complex in concept, flawless in execution, accessible to those fully investing in its radiance and one of the more unique entities to emerge as of late.
Enter Steve Kilbey, revered vocalist from Australian alt rock icons The Church, and Jeffrey Cain, guitarist for critically lauded American act Remy Zero. From a distance, the pair may appear poles apart and most certainly an unlikely collaboration, but on record they connect with uncanny cohesion. Perhaps that stems from the truly remarkable format in which the two met and cross continentally recorded the pieces that became Isidore's glorious ten track (eleven counting the bonus cut) self-titled endeavor.
"The Church was on tour through L.A. and I was on break with Remy Zero for a few days and saw them," Cain says of the initial interaction. "I had been a follower of the band and Steve for quite some time and wrote an instrumental with his voice in mind that was given to him after the show. I got a message from Steve later that night saying he already had lyrics for me, and if I could book him some studio time, he would cut the vocal before he left for San Francisco the next morning."
And with a bit of late night scrambling through his studio connections, Cain had the completed take from Kilbey by the morning, a reality that became the catalyst for Isidore's formation and its first song "Transmigration." "I get handed so many CDs when I'm on the road that I rarely have time to listen to them all," reckons the thick accented Kilbey. "But on this night, the hotel I stayed in had a CD player, which is really weird if you think about it. And since I didn't have any CDs with me other than the one Jeffrey passed on, I popped it in. I throughout to myself 'Wow, this guy nailed it' and I was blown away at this amazing piece of music. After I put the vocals down, Jeffrey got my address in Sydney and he took it from there."
Obtaining the whereabouts of Kilbey's residence was more than just a means of friendly correspondence for Cain, who instead launched a continuous cycle of transatlantic creative collaboration following the same structure as the pair's original encounter. "He started sending me more and more backing tracks and I kept going into my brother's studio to do the vocals," offers Kilbey with a chuckle. "We had virtually no communication, other than meeting up once in San Diego, but we realized how well we could get along as people and artists. He was a motivating force behind Remy Zero and I've always had that position in The Church. We both had something only a weary band leader could understand and that helped us click."
Even with just one encounter and a relatively hands-off snail mail relationship (aside from the final mastering session together), the experience left Cain especially in awe of his cohort, who he's respected since an artistically challenged adolescence in Alabama., "I just remember how that town didn't have all that many outlets to find new things and how his words and vocals particularly sparked my interest," he relates, giving nods to The Church's 1986 essential album Heyday. "And here I am years later pretty overwhelmed and impressed at how dedicated of an artist he is to work with.
That admiration is mutual from Kilbey, who admits not necessarily getting familiar with Remy Zero in its initial incarnation, but always hearing positive feedback in the press. "Together we've gone into a new place, which for me has come off of 25 years in The Church trying to push the envelope," Kilbey contends. "My vocals are probably a bit more melancholy and more melodic then they are in that band and the guitars have their intricacies and nuances."
One such example in the series of standouts is "Transmigration," on which Kilbey levitates in a reflective tone over Cain's sheering chord structures that sting like a sleek razor blade pressed flesh against skin. That chill-inducing fret board action heats up further against progressive vocal prodding on "Sanskrit," which boasts the mantra-like lyric "Yesterday's gone and it's better that way." A slumber filled stupor hovers around "The Memory Cloud," painful vengeance surrounds "Nothing New," lush loops abound throughout "Refused On Temple St." and devilish dialogue permeates the poetically charged "CA. Redemption Value."
With such sonic switch hitting also comes a carried topical umbrella, further unraveled throughout Kilbey's distinctive subtlety and Sunday morning simplicity. "The lyrics were all inspired by the music and I didn't have any idea of them from Jeffrey aside from a title," he divulges. "I would listen to the music for awhile, let the impressions build up and then take the passing of time. I'm addressing the passing of years, the movement of clocks and things of that nature. It does seem to be the themes of these songs- life's longing, wistfulness, sadness and triumphs."
Given the proven pedigrees from which both musicians rose clearly lends credence to Isidore's cause. After all, lightening already struck solid for The Church, which has broken beyond its homeland to deliver a string of smashes (including "Under the Milky Way," "Spark" and "Reptile") backed by two and a half decades of critical coddling. Remy Zero also experienced a rocket rise via the albums Remy Zero, Villa Elaine and The Golden Hum. Both critically-acclaimed and embraced by Alternative Radio, Remy Zero spawned a legacy that includes key tracks "Prophecy" and "Save Me," the latter becoming a series theme for the WB's #1 television show "Smallville."
For fans of members' previous bands, Isidore's a concoction of their most appealing elements, though it's also replete with an elevated degree of intrigue and idiosyncrasy. But regardless of its acceptance level, members can rest easy having created a swooning sci-fi screenplay, smothered in textural bliss, organic experimentation and sincere observations.
"A lot of times you'll see guys from regular bands involved in a lot of side projects, which are generally filled with lots of mucking around in their time off, but this is more than that," enthuses Kilbey. "It's a very valid thing in its own right and is music for people who like attention to small details in every way. I'd definitely love to keep doing this!"
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