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CROSSING THE DESERT

Iris

Neo-Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars How I got suckered into buying this one and managed to find another loonie into taking it off my hands (well the loonie is a good friend of mine just into that stuff). Pointless home-made solitary studio doodling . Please do not mention the Marillion connection. Actually , the sheer amount ofd solitary work does command some respect , but unless one is a legend and a genius , one should avoid making or writing an album alone ( this album is the case ,even though there are guests , they had ni input I can detect) because you simply have no second opinion. Of course , you will find other people who will find this good (my loony friend) , I cannot admit such amateur oeuvre , however impeccably played by the musicians.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#3869)
Posted Friday, February 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Iris is Marillion, but with other guitar player. Perhaps, the album sounds really good. Mr. Gouvernaire has a great talent to compose and play the guitar: he creates a fantastic ocean athmosphere ("Ocean Song") and the can make a really hard and emotive prog ("Crossing the Desert"). Some songs sounds repetitive, but he has the company of two "monsters" (Mosley and Trewavas). So, maybe it doesn't matter what they play, even it will sounds really good.

Pay attention to "War", maybe the most fantastic piece of the album...

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Send comments to progadicto (BETA) | Report this review (#40417)
Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I can be short about this mainly instrumental album: it's a nice one to play if you are trying to get to sleep while playing music. I don't even mean it as an insult. Sometimes I like to sleep with music on the background. This is a good example. It's quite soft stuff without too many sound explosions. There is some melody there but not very significant.

I don't love it and I don't hate it; somewhere in between. So three stars for this one (2.75)

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#139257)
Posted Thursday, September 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars There are times when I feel so misunderstood , scratching my cranium wondering if I am some kind of wack-job and when I read previous unflattering reviews about an album that I really like , I get even more agitated. Mind you, it took me years to really appreciate Iris' album because I sort took it for granted also and paid scant attention to it, which in turn explains the tepid reviews. I revisited it recently, listening to it very loud as rightly suggested by the liner notes and it blew me away, completely miffed at why I missed this 10 year-old addition to my collection. I guess that I was also guilty of offering only low volume appreciation and I did get it right. Sean Trane and I have opposite views on many prog recordings, with only a few concurring sentiments, so I guess I must be one of those "loonies" he describes so flippantly. Love ya anyway, mate! First off, this is no neo recording as it contains no vocals, no commercially accessible structure and it is not simple fodder either. Just because Ian Mosley and Peter Trewavas play on it, does not mean it's Marillion "sans" Hoggarth. The rhythm tandem has never sounded as tight and as complex as on this recording, both displaying flashes of technical brilliance and unsuspected flair. Sylvain Gouvernaire (formerly of Arrakeen) is in no way a Rothery clone, his style winks at Latimer but mostly nods at Steve Vai or Satriani, while occasionally gently musing like Steve when the tempo becomes atmospheric. That this is a pure technique /noodling fest is correct but the context is phenomenally invigorating.

"Indian Dream" is a subtle, dreamy opening salvo with quirky atmospherics, whispering synths, tic-toc percussion and then, the suddenly shrieking guitar enters the fray. Gouvernaire immediately astonishes with some curvy flourishes, all restraint and infatuation, effectively transmitting the sullen impressions his axe wishes to express. Isn't this what music is all about? Far beyond background music, this piece has juices brimming from every note, with loads of keyboards handled by the guitarist. The final searing solo is truly absurd, desperately seeking out both power and passion. "Train de Vie" gives the bass an opportunity to feverishly develop some dizzying notes, with Mosley bashing firmly in unison, I sort of forgot how good Trewavas can handle (or finger?) the 4 string instrument, while Sylvain roams all over his Tom Anderson electric guitar with energized delirium. This piece veers closely to funk-fusion and would be close to Gongzilla more than anything! The seductive acoustic guitar finale is a clever and timely contrast that impresses . Very nice! "Memory of Eagle" starts off leisurely with some surprising piano work, more robust fretless bass (I am a sucker!), slowly ratcheting up the elegant mood (great orchestral synth backdrops) and waiting for the fretboard to exude some magic. Potent rhythm blasts illuminate the electric path taken by the reserved solo, punctuated by Mosley's sleek and authoritarian drumming, choir effects brilliantly adorning the arrangement. Trewavas weaves (not a bad word association) in and out of the scrimmage with expertise, bowing to the stylish homecoming of the piano. "Top on Top" is a colossal lead guitar showcase, seeking out new supersonic trajectories like a laser guided missile, flirting with stratospheric horizons, nervous yet controlled, this is where the Vai/Satriani hints come to the fore. This is placid, yawn-inducing and boring? The next piece is the acknowledged gem, as "War" is a masterpiece of eloquence and bravura, avidly expressing the gloom, doom and the mortal injustice of conflict, using dark barricades of sad orchestrations, funeral drum beats and out of nowhere an upsurge of melancholic devastation, giving Mosley another opportunity to confirm his mastery, while Gouvernaire flies over the neck of his instrument, ripping, raging, routing, revolting and resounding with impassioned ability. His torpid style is way more aggressive than Rothery or Latimer, sweepingly despondent and urgently irate, conveying instrumentally the horrors of human stupidity. The grandiose piano -led outro clearly brings to mind the quiet after the storm and ultimately the senselessness of it all. The graceful solo is simply heavenly, Wow again! The short "Obsession" serves a welcome respite after all the desolation and despair of the previous conflict. Extremely effect- laden, massively orchestral, the guitar-synth paints abstractions chock full of impressionist contrasts and experimental rebounds, very nice indeed. The 10 minute "Crossing the Desert" is probably the crowning achievement here, a masterfully memorable piano intro that explodes into a resounding vortex of sound right from the get-go, the trio delving deeply into the most effusive soundscapes, howling guitars urging the beleaguered bass and drums, egging them along forcefully. Gouvernaire proves his mettle here again, surely more manic than all his influences combined, meshing grace and fury with ostensible cheek. When the glorious main theme rises from the sands, the bombastic solo is like a feathery mirage full of desperation and thirst. The piano knows when to provide oasis-like comfort and shade, balancing out the contrasts, much like the subject matter (there is nothing on earth as complex and extreme as the desert). In this, the artist demonstrates a vivid understanding of his own inspiration and the ability to formalize it with harmonics and musical architecture. 8 minutes in, the brutal sonic sandstorm is unleashed once again, sudden and overpowering, leaving the cowering listener in thrilled numbness. Exhilarating! How could I have missed this for so long? The precious finale is "Ocean Song", a diminutive farewell full of tender elegance, translucent synth barrages reminiscent of Patrick O'Hearn's work, sumptuous cascades of sound and silence, incredible pacing and quasi-deferential reverence.

What a great instrumental album this is, much maligned, misunderstood, mislabeled and sadly, mis- reviewed. Well the loonie crossed the desert and I have seen the distant light.

4.5 blooming flowers.

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Send comments to tszirmay (BETA) | Report this review (#210129)
Posted Saturday, April 04, 2009 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Iris is one of the almost forgotten bands from the '90's, and to me is strange, here in PA is low rated like on other prog webs. Is that bad???, for sure no, at least to me. Having a solid line up , 2 members from Marillion, the drumer Ian Mosley and bassist Pete Trewasvas and the main man of the band the guitarist and keybordist from Arakeen Sylvain Gouvernaire. What you expect when you have such musician involved here, a good album, yes, a great album , maybe not in the end but for sure not a bad or boring album as amny pretend to be. The music is all instrumental with various atmospheres from mellow to more up tempo, imagine the instrumental side of Marillion, Gouvernaire guitar sound most of the time like Rothery with some Pink Floyd moments like the title track Crossing The Desert . All in all a fairly good album, that is too unnoticed here, maybe the listners would expect something with more vein , more balls in compositions, not some floydian gitar arrangements melted with neo prog. Some good pieces stands apart here like Train De Vie, Top on top or Memory Of Eagle, that shows Iris had great future but for some resons never made it in this circles. 3 stars for Crossing the desert, not a fantastic release but not a bad one for sure.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#294872)
Posted Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
3 stars Iris was a project started in 1992 by guitarist Sylvain Gouvernaire,when he had already moved to England after the disbanding of Neo-Prog band Arrakeen.There he worked with many musicians like Cozy Powell,Clive Nolan (even participated in the Casino project),Mark Kelly but also Ian Mosley and Pete Trewavas from Marillion.The last two agreed to play on Sylvain's project ans so the album ''Crossing the desert'' was born in 1996.

Here Sylvain handles all keyboards except the guitars with Trewavas on bass and Mosley on drums.This is a whole instrumental effort based on melodic lines, dreamy soundscapes, virtuosic solos and special effects.The style is quite close to that of ARRAKEEN's, split between keyboard-piano driven mellow passages and guitar-dominated parts with deep emotional content and comes as a cross between Neo Prog and Symphonic Rock with a touch of New Age music.Bands like DOGMA and CHANCE are great reference points.Complexity and power are not absent,a couple of tracks feature great breaks,a pounding rhythm section and challenging guitars.Unfortunately not everything is great.The keyboard work of Gouvernaire is very safe almost hypnotic at moments with an actually supporting than major role,while there are lots of smooth moments that work more as fillers between richer passages rather than as parts of the instrumental project.The production and mix though are absolutely fantastic and help the more demanding moments of the album sound very atmospheric and even bombastic.

Sylvain would return back to France after the recordings and completed a five-piece line-up with double guitars (but without Trewavas or Mosley) to perform the album on stage.He almost immediately begun writing material foe a second Iris release,but for unknown reasons this would never see the light.

Having in mind who are these guys playing on ''Crossing the Desert'',someone would expect a memorable and high-praised release.The album contains plenty of moments of confirming the talent of the trio but also parts with no deep inspiration.Good and recommended album,no more or less.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#549759)
Posted Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Having listened to practically thousands of albums, one could be excused for having come close to saturation point. It's not common that things would easily impress anymore. The seeming profusion of clones has become a rather irritating issue for me.

"Crossing the Desert" has hit me as a very pleasant and totally unexpected surprise. I found it rather by chance and whilst I enjoy ARRAKEEN's music, at the time I was unaware of the connection.

So, the reality is that "sight unseen" I gave this album a spin. My first reaction was that there are elements of TANGERINE DREAM. The nice layering of the synth work is rather impressive and made me more alert to what was to follow. The more I've heard, the more impressed I became. Not that there is much there that would rival my most fave artists, but in actual enjoyment value, this album is outstanding.

Unhurried, laid back compositions with subtle complexity delivered in a most professional manner. All instrumental and not aiming at chart success with forced vocals. That's a definite plus for me!

The odd nod towards PIERRE MOERLEN's GONG goes down rather well with me and - of course - some passages remind of instrumental bits by MARILLION - surprise, surprise...!

My conclusion is simple. I enjoy this album very much and that's what really matters.

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Send comments to BORA (BETA) | Report this review (#874029)
Posted Sunday, December 09, 2012 | Review Permalink

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