Published January 29, 2014
‘Penumbra,’ the debut album from songwriter and vocalist ÍRiS, does just what the title suggests. Sitting on the edge of shadow and light, this album seems to lose itself in this indeterminate space. Sombre and beautiful in concept, ‘Penumbra’ falls just short of really capturing the edge and contrast of that dark and light space. Flat grey days permeate these nine songs. Unfortunately, it never really rains, nor is the listener afforded the possible break of sonic light after the clouds.
The record evokes something between Fiona Apple’s starker musical structuring and Beth Orton’s personally mythological narrative. While the songwriting shows much potential, the recording itself leaves something to be desired. The opening track “That Morning” walks a problematic line between intimate vocals and the rest of the instrumentation. Truly interesting arrangements feel unfortunately flat. The main problems lie in the percussion, at times feeling like they are forcing the rhythm along, and at times they simply just don’t sink where they should. These songs need more sonic depth to match ÍRiS’s voice: Let them hit. Let the blow be strong enough to sink the ship, and let the vocals carry us through the depths.
The best moments on ‘Penumbra’ exist in the space between notes–where the songs are allowed to slowly ripple along, left to their own devices. Here there is much beauty and plenty to listen for. Certainly a promising debut, ‘Penumbra’ is a perfect record for quiet winter days, a good book and cup of tea.