Pure Reason Revolution
British Prog/Electronic Rock band Pure Reason Revolution are set to release their fifth studio album 'Above Cirrus' on Friday 6th May 2022 through Inside Out Music. ‘Above Cirrus’ contains seven songs that continue many of the musical through lines that fans have come to expect; maintaining a balance between sombre reflection and intrepid exploration. The striking album cover features an art piece called “Deaf Mute” by artist Jill Tegan Doherty. The art depicts a rather traumatised polar bear that’s out of its normal environment and partially covered in slow thawing ice. The musicians on the album are Jon Courtney - guitar, vocals, keyboards, Chloë Alper - bass, vocals, keyboards and Greg Jong - guitars, vocals.
Pure Reason Revolution began life as a Reading Indie band called The Sunset Sound, which featured Jon Courtney, Chloë Alper and Jim Dobson, but it was during their time at the University of Westminster (2000 - 2003) where Courtney, brother Andrew, Chloë Alper, Greg Jong and Jim Dobson came together to form Pure Reason Revolution, going through a number of name changes along the way including "The Wow" and "Pendulum Dawn". The band's name was inspired by Courtney's University thesis on the nature of genius and its application to Beach Boy Brian Wilson, for which he studied Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant.
Their first single 'Apprentice of the Universe' was released on Alan McGee's Poptones label in 2004. By autumn 2004 they signed to SonyBMG and the following year saw the band releasing two singles - 'Bright Ambassadors of Morning' (the title is from a line in Pink Floyd's ‘Echoes’ on the ‘Meddle’ album), and 'The Intention Craft' - plus one mini-album, 'Cautionary Tales for the Brave'. Their first full-length album, 'The Dark Third' was released in April 2006, and was produced by Paul Northfield (Rush, Porcupine Tree, Gentle Giant, Dream Theater). Sadly, due to low record sales, Sony dropped them in December 2006.
The second album 'Amor Vincit Omnia' was released in March 2009 on the Superball Music label and was a departure from their more dreamy, Classic-Prog style of 'The Dark Third', with electronic elements now becoming a greater and more prominent part of their sound. The title of the album is Latin for 'Love Conquers All', alluding to Vergil's famous line from Eclogue 10.69. It is also a reference to the painting Amor Vincit Omnia by the Italian baroque painter Caravaggio, completed circa 1601. Their third album 'Hammer and Anvil' was released via Superball Music in October 2010, co-produced by Courtney and Tom Bellamy (The Cooper Temple Clause). The new music continued the dark, electronic themes of 'Amor Vincit Omnia', and was partially inspired by themes of World War I and II.
The band parted ways in November 2011 following touring in support of their 2010 album 'Hammer and Anvil', releasing their final EP, 'Valour' in November 2011. Since then, Jon Courtney formed an electronic duo with vocalist Sammi Doll called Bullet Height and released their debut album ‘No Atonement’ in 2017, while Chloë Alper formed a new Rock band with Grammy and MOBO nominated multi-instrumentalist Mat Collis called Tiny Giant in 2015. Their first single 'Joely' was released in May 2016, which won them a nomination for the Limelight (New Band) award at the Progressive Music Awards Eon Music. They released a further three singles, 'School of Hard Knocks', 'Draw me a Line' and 'Thirsty & Sad'.
In June 2019 Courtney and Alper re-united as Pure Reason Revolution and played the Midsummer Prog Festival, Openluchtheater, Valkenburg, Netherlands. Courtney and Alper were the only returning members. The reunion was a huge success and with refreshed enthusiasm and renewed chemistry they set about writing and recording their first new material in almost ten years. The resulting landmark comeback album 'Eupnea' was released in 2020. By the time ‘Eupnea’ was released, the band had spent a moderate amount of time anticipating their first tour in over ten years supporting the record. But as the picture of current events became clearer and clearer, and shows kept getting pushed back further and further, the plan changed - and work on ‘Above Cirrus’ began.
The opening track 'Our Prism' storms in with a maelstrom of jarring angular guitars and relentlessly violent pounding drums. A heavy monstrous track to kick things off. The potent blend of Cortney and Alper's vocals meld with intricate complexity and longing intrigue. “And I feel connected and hurt, Body infect the soul, And I feel the wrath spin and pull, Body defect the soul.”
'New Kind of Evil' starts off slow and menacing gradually building into a bewildering cacophony that weaves in and out of the storm with gloomy shades of darkness and timorous foreboding. “She spits wild, now we hasten attack and forsake her, Don’t go today, God I need her, Don’t show a trace, so adored, Don’t turn away or deceive her, Don’t stoke the pain or remorse, As tidal waves spin, New kind of evil burns here, You cut into my life & bend, New kind of evil… Bare!”
'Phantoms' is a full on disco inferno! Awash with electronic beats and trembling synths, but then halfway through thundering block guitar chords enter guiding the momentum into Heavy Rock territory. The vocal harmonies between Courtney and Alper are sensationally devine! “Break, naked and cracked, Show me you rag and bone crooked fear, Chase, raid and attack! Show me your ransacked book of dreams.”
'Cruel Deliverance' starts off sparse, mellow and meandering before gradually building in intensity, filling the air space with clattering dissonance and roaring aggression culminating in a seething mass of discord and disquietude! Again the vocal harmonies between Courtney and Alper are sublime. “It’s a cruel deliverance, in our words, in our wounds, It’s a cruel deliverance and a rush too far, You scold, explode, I run! Now thunder burst, we pull the earth, Messiahs come, allure the earth.”
'Scream Sideways' is ten minutes of mayhem with metamorphosing moods and juxtaposing tempos. The track starts of slow and moody, but once the drums enter everything gets crazy! Intense moments of angst permeate with kaleidoscopic reverence and seething deference. “Scream till you hit the core, Storm after fire now falling, Silence to make you sore Echoes that fight now run, fear!”
'Dead Butterfly' enters with slow moody piano arpeggios and celestial breathy vocals before relentlessly heavy attacking electric guitars come crashing in splattering the soundscape with grinding intensity! The electronic backing makes a spikey bed for the melodies and harmonies to oscillate and float with earnest. The beautiful harmonies from Courtney and Alper are truly infectious, “New enemies revealed on earth, Torn by beasts and beat to dirt, All I feel, pervert alone, The mantle weeps.”
The final track 'Lucid' commences with assiduous vocals from Courtney over delicate piano chords before boundless electric guitar riffs engulf the spaces between the notes, splashing over the drama like a tidal wave hitting the shore! Layers of sound dip and weave enveloping the listener into an aural tunnel of tingling sensations. Vocal harmonies twist and wind creating an atmospheric vortex. “You were lucid for a while then bent dead, You waited for a while, lamented, Take aim my love, It’s murder when the eyes unveil.”
Overall an exuberantly intense, rumbustiously tumultuous listening experience that will leave you quite emotionally exhausted but somewhat rejuvenated at the same time. The stunning vocal harmonies from Courtney and Alper are the albums crowning glory and make this an essential album to hear.
The band also finally managed to re-schedule their tour and played their first UK shows in over ten years. Sadly Chloë Alper didn’t join them due to her current touring commitments with 90s Brit Pop band James. In her place was singer songwriter Annicke Shireen.
Steven C. Gilbert