19 May 2022

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Reb Fountain - Album Review: Iris

01 Oct 2021 // A review by Roger Bowie

Psyche emerges from an opening string sequence which evokes a western movie soundtrack before simplifying to a naked piano behind a barrage of poetry and sailing under a vast star….”who are we in this life?” And then, yes, we know who you are as the song picks up from where Don’t You Know Who I Am? left off.

And thus, we are away on a journey to Iris, the album which arises from the ashes of last year’s lockdown commitment to one song a day. Reb Fountain is back, prolific, not knowing if a song a day will work but with love and care from her collaborators the songs take studio shape and it’s clear this muse was no illusion.

There are influences and influencers however, subtle, and a hint of a shift in direction, we can’t catch Reb but we can try and keep up as Iris unveils itself in sometimes short staccato sequences which stop as suddenly as they start, but always with a melody. This is not a hard album to like. Foxbright echoes Aldous before taking its own Donnie Darko path, and old themes appear in the headlights and burrows are sanctuaries.

But yes, a hint of a shift, away from the raw Americana of Lucinda Williams and towards the subtle folk/pop of Lana Del Rey. Retaining some Nick Cave darkness, Iris is Reb’s most immediately accessible work to date. An instant effect, as if the previous album was just a teaser, an Invisible Man. We’ve had a taste of Heart, with its ever so sultry video and further echoes of earlier work, but also progressive to pop. Reb is moving up towards mainstream, but not to it. We don’t want that; we’re ok with the threat and then the retreat. Beastie takes us back to the Reb of many voices, many tones, but there’s no hint of desperation, nor anguish nor plaintiveness nor uncertainty. Reb Fountain knows who she is, she’s moving on and along, more confident in her skin, no less nervous on the inside, but decidedly more assured on the out.

Count your lucky stars, Nick Cave, let’s have a helluva time with the Ark allusion and the Fisherman walking on water. No holes in her feet. From a biblical to a cruel Titanic sea, Swim to the Star, about the ill-fated voyage from Southampton, “goin down, down, down”.

Lacuna is a missing part, in this case the song which comes closest to rocking out, or at least the promise of a band cut loose live. “What a way to start, kisses in the dark”

Iris is the eye’s diaphragm, letting in light, and Iris was the goddess of the rainbow and messenger for the gods. Iris the title track starts like an old time Hollywood movie, but segues into song about love, not surprisingly, given the pedigree of the title, and of the legendary Iris who links the gods to humanity. All the colours. All the shades. All the nuances. All the frailty of the human condition.

And so we have Reb Fountain’s new album, Iris, which closes with the most beautiful Intermission. For me the standout track. “This is how we make it out alive”. And a fitting smorgasbord of themes and influences, as if all that has gone before has led to this, it’s only intermission, we’ve only just begun. Reb Fountain has only just begun. “Funny how the time flies”. This is how we make it. Refraction of light. Rainbow. Fountain of Reb.

Iris is out today on Flying Nun Records.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Reb Fountain

Reb Fountain may be New Zealand’s best-kept secret. Identified as a “the best voice to come out of Christchurch in ten years” in the finals of Battle of the Bands way back in 1990 she disappeared off the Kiwi music map. Since then Reb occasionally appears at her old haunts, mesmerizes anyone who’s there with an increasingly polished repertoire of breathtaking vocals, soulful lyrics and melodic tunes, before vanishing into thin air again. So what ever happened to Reb Fountain?

Perhaps it’s more like what didn’t happen: She got her first guitar at six and by the age of thirteen she had mapped her poetry onto melody, writing lyrics to the sound of her acoustic guitar. She’s been singer/songwriter for three bands Immaculate Sun, Like Water and Beckoning South with talented musicians like Pete Woods (Salmonella Dub/DJ Rockwood), Tony Harlem (Future Stupid), Mark Tyler (Salmonella Dub) and Pete Hobbs (Lesley Speaker/Kitset); trained as a jazz vocalist at a college in Seattle performing with great musicians which drummed out any insecurities about playing live; lived and recorded in major musical cities like New York, Vancouver and London all the time living and breathing music.

Yet you could be forgiven for not knowing who Reb Fountain is. If you’ve been at one of her gigs you certainly wouldn’t have forgotten her. Or maybe, by chance, you would’ve heard one her low-fi 4 track recordings with Like Water on Indie Hit Disc (#5 and 8), doing the rounds on RDU and Radio One. There’s no doubt, with her immense talent and productivity as a singer/songwriter, that she should’ve made several records in the last decade, but that hasn’t been her path until now. She’s been a lover, a fighter, a mother, and a writer; got a degree, two gorgeous kids, plenty of knowledge with wisdom to boot, strong political leanings and a great big heart wide-open to the world around her. Fortunately for us it pulses deeper and stronger everyday with desire to have the freedom to write and play, perform and learn, travel and share music with others.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Reb Fountain


Year: 2021
Type: Album
Reb Fountain
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Hopeful & Hopeless
Year: 2017
Type: EP
Little Arrows
Year: 2017
Type: Album
Year: 2008
Type: Album

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