Artist: Pure Reason Revolution
Album Title: Above Cirrus
Label: InsideOut Music
Date of Release: 6 May 2022
The last album by Pure Reason Revolution was the first that I encountered, having missed out on their early career. And, despite not necessarily being the archetypal kind of music that I’d normally gravitate towards, it is fair to say that ‘Eupnea’ made a positive impression upon me. Of it, I wrote:
“And there you have it. Consider me a convert to the Pure Reason Revolution cause. ‘Eupnea’ is an intelligent blend of electronica, progressive rock that is made all the stronger due to some beguiling melodic sensitivity. I like the music more with every listen and I’m now very excited to delve into the band’s past at the earliest opportunity.”
Almost exactly two years later, Pure Reason Revolution have returned with ‘Above Cirrus’ and this time, the core duo of Jon Courtney (guitar, vocals, keys) and Chloe Alper (bass, vocals, keys) have brought with them a new full-time member to extend the band to a trio. I say ‘new’, but the new addition will be a familiar name to long-term fans, as it’s guitarist/vocalist Greg Jong who features as a full member for the first time since the 2005 EP, ‘Cautionary Tales For The Brave’.
Having spent some considerably time digesting ‘Above Cirrus’, it’s almost a cut and paste job from the quote above in many ways. Once again, Pure Reason Revolution have created a record that, on paper, I shouldn’t really take to, too heavily, but they have won me over. And the success of this new album is the combination of fascinating, deep lyrical content, emotion, the variation of styles, powerful melodies, and strong songwriting that means it all comes together in a really enjoyable package. It’s a bit of a grower too, with several songs suddenly, out of nowhere, finding their way into my brain to be hummed or sung when least expected.
Returning to the lyrics for a moment, and once again, the words are inspired by Courtney’s personal thoughts and journeys, with an overall message routed in optimism. ‘Above Cirrus’ isn’t a concept album though, as each song stands on its own, but with a central idea that ‘through the turbulence, we’ll help each other through the darkness.’ I find this to be an appealing central thread, which only serves to add greater strength and poignancy to the music. Even the cover art, which might seem sad on face value, is an extension of the lyrical content, in that the polar bear is suffering, but is adapting, surviving, and in so doing, offers hope.
Moving on to the music itself, and the electronic nature of the Pure Reason Revolution sound is exposed from the very beginning, with a gentle beat sitting beneath a spoken-word sample. From there, a powerful, almost tribal drumbeat kicks in to move the song forward forcefully, before an equally abrasive riff emerges. There’s a strong energy to the song that’s infectious, and even though I’m not totally sold on the heavily effect-laden vocals at points, the mix of layered male and female vocals really shines. It’s a short, sharp track to open the album, but it contains a melodic intent to ensure it’s as memorable as it is striking.
The contrast between the opener and ‘New Kind Of Evil’ is pronounced, as this song begins much more delicately and sedately, with a much greater emphasis on melody from the outset. That said, you can feel the increase in intensity that’s lurking just below the surface, wanting to break loose. The sense of drama that this creates is excellent, as is the central chorus melody which is one of those big earworm affairs. I also love the precise, yet smooth ebb and flow which leads to a bold release just shy of the half-way mark yet recedes just as quickly into calmer waters. The addition of tinkling piano notes is a very welcome addition, nicely juxtaposing the more overt electronic sounds that appear later in the track, as it ends on an authoritative note.
‘Phantoms’, another shorter composition, is arguably my least favourite on the album, but I do like the more pronounced electronics that feature alongside more male/female duetted vocals. It’s then superseded by one of the very best songs on ‘Above Cirrus’, that of ‘Cruel Deliverance’. It’s a slower, more introspective piece, but it contains the most gorgeous of melodies, the one more than any other that I find myself singing in my head at three in the morning, or whilst out with the dog on the park. Ironically, for one with the moniker of ‘The Man Of Much Metal’, this is also the most mainstream sounding, and least ‘heavy’ of all of the seven compositions on the record. But a great melody is a great melody, and it’s this that speaks to me above everything else. Mind you, the mid-song minimalist, cinematic section is inspired too.
At a touch over ten minutes, ‘Scream Sideways’ is the longest single composition, but it uses the time wisely, exploring a myriad of textures and soundscapes, from gentle, ethereal minimalism to driving prog rock, and from bold, experimental electronic vistas to spiky, aggressive post rock walls of sound. Once again though, despite the variations on offer, the song writing is such that the whole thing feels homogenous, tied together by some subtle melodies along the way.
And to close, we have ‘Lucid’ that is a beguiling track, full of great musicianship, from all members of the band, not to mention further memorable melodic intent. Even the brief inclusion of a saxophone barely dulls my enjoyment of the song, a song that once again shows the expertise in building drama and tension through passages of light and shade, of quiet contemplation, and all-out explosions of near-metallic strength.
On balance, as much as I enjoyed ‘Eupnea’, I can only conclude that I find myself enjoying ‘Above Cirrus’ even more. I’m not sure I can put my finger on quite why, but once the dust has settled and I am able to observe things from a distance, I get the feeling that it will ultimately come down to the strength and potency of the melodies. ‘Above Cirrus’ continues where ‘Eupnea’ left off, but also ups the ante and, in so doing, provides forty-five minutes of genuine musical pleasure. I heartily recommend ‘Above Cirrus’ to anyone with a liking for intelligent, melodic, electronic-infused progressive rock.
The Score of Much Metal: 89%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: