I knew I'd like this album from the first distorted guitar chord, what I like to call "he Shoegaze Blur," where a single guitar hit vibrates in concert with a still electronic synthesizer note. You know it well. Iroha's new self-titled album owes a lot to the experimental "wall of noise" sound that had brief popularity in the late eighties: bands like Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. But Iroha have produced a work that's far more consistent, with greater emphasis on melody than on sound engineering.

There's little point in singling out particular tracks, as this isn't an album you're going to dip into for particular songs; you're more likely to listen to it in its entirety, late at night, alone. That said, 'Reminisce' is one of the tracks you'll listen in waiting for, when there suddenly seems to be a lot of movement, the guitar playing is less dispassionate, and you won't just be bobbing your head, you'll be shaking your fist in the air.

The band made a peculiar decision to release the main album with a remix album. These aren't just remixes of a few tracks, but a wholesale remastering of the entire album by band-member Justin Broadrick, with 3 additional guest mixes at the end.

I can't decide if the remix album was included because the band couldn't commit to one sound or because they felt it enhanced and complemented the main album. It seems unfortunate to me that they couldn't just choose a selection from the main album and the remix album and put it into one superlative album.

In this case, the JKB remixes are almost entirely superior to the original tracks. The remix album is better mixed and better balanced; the droning guitars aren't cannibalizing all the space in the song, and the vocals come out more clearly. Everything has more room to breathe.

Shoegaze is one of those peculiar genres; it never really tipped off into the popular consciousness, but there seems to be one key band for every five years. I think M83 has held down the top spot for a few years now, and I don't see them budging any time soon. But there are signs that Iroha might have the skill to take over the throne one day. It's not perfect as yet, but this new album shows that they can provide that transcendence that is so key to this type of music.

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