by Isidore


Songwriter, bassist, and lyricist Steve Kilbey — lead singer with spectacularly creative Australian Alternative Rock band The Church — is an extremely prolific musician, who never rests on his laurels, always soldiering on in the face of adversity (heroin addiction in the '90s, lack of commerciality, financial problems, etc.). This admirable work ethic, and his passion for his art, has resulted in an impressive body of work that includes various solo albums and side projects, which makes it very exciting and gratifying for fans to follow his career.

Sometime during the recording sessions for The Church's 2003 masterpiece Forget Yourself, Steve Kilbey commenced yet another project, this time around with American musician and Church fan Jeffrey Cain (ex-Remy Zero). This particular collaboration differed itself from every other Kilbey side project up until then — in the sense that the album was conceived by a long-distance musical relationship; Jeffrey Cain would send the backing tracks via email, and then Kilbey would write the lyrics and record the vocals in Bondi Beach, Australia, where he lives—in other words, he didn't write any of the actual music. Truth be told, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Steve Kilbey actually did co-write the music on Isidore's eponymously titled debut album, that's how heavily indebted the atmospheric sound of Jeffrey Cain's painstaking compositions and arrangements is to Steve Kilbey and The Church. Steve Kilbey: "Genius is a hard word, I shouldn't really lay that on Jeffrey, but I think he's extremely intelligent and clever in the way he has created this music and he's tailored it exactly for me... I think that's the gestalt thing that happens between partners that are in sync with each other."

After a Church concert performance in America, with Jeffrey Cain in attendance, Steve Kilbey received a CD containing the backing track for what would eventually become "Transmigration," which he listened to at his motel later that night. Steve Kilbey: "And I did a vocal on it in L.A., immediately, because I wanted him to know that I was really into this, and gave it back to him." It's no wonder that Steve Kilbey was as enamored with "Transmigration" as he was; it's a song of rare beauty by an unusually gifted and creative composer/arranger: alluring, captivating and mystifying, with intricate instrumentation consisting of layers of varied and nuanced guitar sounds and effects that are alternately smooth and abrasive, a perfect fit for Kilbey's world of contrasts and contradictions. Steve Kilbey: "See, this is the magic of Jeffrey Cain — to suggest wide open spaces and intimacy, both at the same time. That is the kind of contradiction that will pull you back to the record for the rest of your life...."

Another standout track is "Refused On Temple St.," an ethereal song floating on acoustic and electric guitars, understated drums, bass and celestial harmonies; it received frequent airplay on Alternative radio in the U.S, as did Isidore's two most obvious singles, the dramatic "Musidora" and the widescreen Electro-Pop song "Sanskrit." Other highlights on Isidore include "Saltwater"'s stuttering electronic motif, the Trip-Hop beats and backwards guitar of "Ghosting," and the intensity of "One For Iris Doe" and its characteristically enigmatic lyrics ("And when I say you're not thinking straight / I really gotta tell you, mate / It's checkmate / Ain't that great? / Do you believe in fate?"). Isidore's debut album showcases all the qualities of The Church's greatest recordings; light and dark, mysticism, cinematic soundscapes, fantastic musicianship. To those familiar with Steve Kilbey's output, Isidore is an exhilarating, aesthetically beautiful amalgam of The Church's Priest=Aura and his 2008 solo album Painkiller. Cain's and Kilbey's Isidore is up there with the best work either of these two musicians have ever done.

What began as cross-equatorial flirtation between veteran alt-rockers Steve Kilbey (the Church) and Jeffrey Cain (Remy Zero) became 10 tracks of lush, gauzy pop-melancholia. Kilbey's tenor still has the alluring warmth it had the first time we heard "Under The Milky Way" at our middle school semi-formal and wussed out of asking a coed for a slow dance, and Cain's effects-soaked guitars and gossamer synth lines shimmer and mope with an ethereal grace so fragile you'll have to forgive him for writing that theme song to Smallville.

Attn: Alt-rockers too young to brood before 1988

Key Tracks: "Sanskrit," "Ghosting," "Saltwater"

Of Note: Kilbey and Cain worked on the album separately and did not hear the final mix until meeting at Kilbey's home in Sydney.

This is something different from previous works made by our favourite poet-musician-rocker-composer-painter neo-renaissance man. If you read the sleeve notes, Jeffrey Cain composed the music, and Steve Kilbey sang and wrote the lyrics, wisely aided in the production by his brother, John. Listening to the songs this is not very accurate. The music is fine, but if you collaborate with someone like Steve there is a high risk of getting eclipsed by his talent. And that's what happened here. Cain's effort is good and enjoyable but I only see it as a canvas for Steve's melodies, words and extremely focused voice, which are top notch. It's unbelievable the way he takes some music, twists it, and blends it to form something richer, deeper, with more texture. And everything without changing anything made by Cain.

Best tracks: Musidora, Refused on Temple St, The Memory Cloud, One For Iris Doe, Transmigration, Nothing New and No Passage.

Isidore is an unknown masterpiece. Every song is a captivating gem. Steve Kilbey's vocals are incredible even though they sound different than his equally brilliant Church vocals. This CD could appeal to millions of music fans.

This CD surpasses any pre-Priest=Aura CD. Mr. Cain deserves his share of credit. A must purchase CD for any music fan. Alluring and mesmerizing songs. I hope there is an Isidore 2. All Church fans must buy this and Mr. Kilbey's "Dabble".

Purchase, listen and enjoy.

For comparisons see:
The Slow Crack, Remindlessness, Jack Frost, Narcosis.