For all of the talk about Iran being the ‘mysterious’, four-track-fueled no-fi project of Aaron Aites and Kyp Malone, the former couldn’t wait to enter a proper recording studio for the duo’s first full-length in more than five years. As Aites told self-titled‘s editor in an eMusic interview, the never-ending Dissolver sessions were “a dream come true … it fulfilled a lifelong ambition. We ended up messing with the songs a lot. ‘Can I Feel What?’ was totally re-arranged in the studio because it didn’t sound as good as the lo-fi version.”
As it turns out, Aites is a massive McCartney/prog-rock fan who always wanted to write his very own concept album–a towering piece of quirky pop music that can’t be appreciated without listening all the way through, lyrics in hand. That’s why we asked Aites for a track-by-track commentary of clues as to just what the hell is going on here …
“I Can See The Future”
Dissolver is a “concept album” with a story that runs throughout, and this song sort of sets a lot of the themes up. I’m reluctant to spell out the story, because that’s what listening to the record is for, but the whole thing was very much informed by my experiences shooting my first film (the black-metal documentary Until The Light Takes Us), my arrival back in the US afterward, and the strange identity crises that ensued.
I often wonder what it is like for soldiers who come back from a war to suddenly “resume” their lives after taking on a new identity in a new place. It was written to be the first song on the album and it’s probably my favorite track. It was originally titled “When The Red Light Goes On” and had very different lyrics, although they amounted to the same thing.[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/Dissolver/02%20Buddy.mp3]
This was the first one we recorded, and my first time recording in a full studio. It was a truly exciting experience laying this track down, one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Although it didn’t really change much from the original demos we’d done, Dave brought a lot to this recording giving it a kind of Double Fantasy sheen.
I Already Know You’re Wrong
The genesis of this song came from an experience with my friend John Dwyer during an extremely chaotic live performance (with a different band, not Iran). It was modified to an extent to fit in with the album. A lot of these songs started as one thing and then morphed into another through the process of editing and rewriting. Dave [Sitek] plays a nice organ part.
Airports fascinate me. They’re like a strange interzone where you kind of check your identity at the door, and then pick it up again when you leave. The whole time that you’re in them amounts to some kind of strange purgatory where you almost cease to exist.
Maybe that sounds a little weird. Anyway, there were three “Airport” songs written for this. “Airport ’79” is on the album, “Airport ’77” is on the Buddy EP, and “Airport ’75” will be on Chinese Chairs. It’s a compilation of tracks that includes a record Kyp and I did between The Moon Boys and Dissolver–originally released in an edition of 50 self-pressed vinyl LPs–and a bunch of other things we recorded during that time, some of which were released and some of which were not. It’ll kind of bridge the gap between The Moon Boys and Dissolver.[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/Dissolver/05%20Baby%20Let%27s%20Get%20High%20One%20Last%20Time%20Together.mp3]
Baby Let’s Get High One Last Time Together[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/Dissolver/06%20Digital%20Clock%20And%20Phone.mp3]
Digital Clock and Phone
I love Aaron Romanello’s guitar work on this track. It’s like he’s ripping the notes right out of the guitar. I think Kyp’s guitar work on this track is also fantastic. It pretty much encompasses the middle passage of “Baby Let’s Get High One Last Time Together,” and the bulk of “Digital Clock and Phone.” There are a lot of sounds in the mix of “Digital Clock and Phone.” John Dwyer makes an uncredited guest appearance doing something I will leave to the imagination of careful listeners. It almost got us kicked out of the studio.
We knew that a lot of people who had heard The Moon Boys were going to be going straight to this one, without hearing any of the material we’d done between the two albums and I think Kyp was very conscious (when we were recording it) about making the track sound like an older Iran song, recorded in the newer setting. It was the first track I wrote for the album.[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/Dissolver/08%20Cape%20Canaveral_Buddy%20(Reprise).mp3]
Cape Canaveral/Buddy (Reprise)
We weren’t going to record this for the album, but [guitarist/bassist] Pete Hoffman insisted on doing it and I’m glad he did. It’s fairly important to the story. If you listen closely, you can hear a microphone hitting the stage followed by an eruption of applause after “the singer” stops singing. Billy Pavone did a really great job with that and the overall production of this track.
Can I Feel What?
This song is a lot different than the version Kyp, Pete and I recorded prior to the recording sessions. For whatever reason, it didn’t seem to be working in the studio the way we were doing it and Kyp had the idea to give it a fuzzed out organ base (the original track has no keyboards whatsoever) and he just ran with it.
This song was written a long time before the recording sessions, when I was still living in San Francisco and before I moved to Oslo. I was kind of anticipating the aftermath of shooting Until The Light Takes Us. I had always wanted to do a giant multi-tracked vocal part and Kyp and I layed down about fifty vocal tracks for the ending (although it doesn’t really sound like it). It was the last one to get finished (although not because of the 50-vocal ending). I think it sounds like a Disney song.