Well this is certainly different for me. Yes, I’d heard of Pure Reason Revolution but somehow never actually listened to their modern day take on Progressive Rock. I know that they are well regarded in certain circles and they have quite a history. Several albums, a split and, more recently, a return to action, albeit in an altered form and with a slightly different line up, so this was new territory for me. I admit it did take me a while to get to a place of understanding with this album but, as always, continued listening finally gave way to understanding and then to acceptance and admiration even.
Well this is my review of this their fourth album, ‘Eupnea’, their first since 2010. It is pretty topical in content in that it speaks of the experiences of Jon Courtney and his wife surrounding the birth of their baby girl, Jessie. Born prematurely at 32 weeks and weighing just 3lbs, this album records her battle for survival, which thankfully she won.
It is Jon’s tribute to his wife and daughter Jessie and has this theme woven throughout the tracks, which really helps you understand the music properly once you are aware of its back story.
‘Eupnea’ consists of just Six tracks of varying length ranging from over four minutes to the epic title track that is nearly fourteen minutes in length. That said, there are no wasted moments on these tracks as everything is of relevance and worthy of their place. Let’s have a look at this in a bit more detail.
The music opens with New Obsession which includes the sounds of hospital apparatus monitoring heartbeat, pulse and breathing. This sets the scene for much of what is to follow; great vocal harmonies from Jon and Chloe Alper and some furious guitar work from Jon that really rocks out with a wonderful melodic solo at the 3.55-minute point. It really delivers a punch, along with that fabulous chorus of “It’s you, a child, a lover you’re dead calm and the choir is so soft tonight”. Very emotional, heartfelt and a simply fabulous opener.
This is followed by the first of the longer tracks, Silent Genesis, with its atmospheric keyboards and samples. A Pink Floyd type guitar line from Jon and an insistent bass line that works to anchor everything together. This track also features original PRR guitarist Greg Jong who was bought in to create this powerful emotional feeling.
Third track Maelstrom is so called because it marked the turning point in Jessie’s struggle for life when she began steadily breathing and her parents’ anxieties were lifted. This is a song of hope that the storm has started to pass over, deeply significant and with Jon and his wife being very grateful for this positive change, an end to the uncertainty. Again, this song has more wonderful harmonies from Jon and Chloe.
Ghosts and Typhoons follows and at over 8 minutes fits between the shorter and longer pieces like a bridge. It has blistering drum patterns to it and raucous guitar throughout, featuring lovely vocals from Chloe alongside some fine support from Jon resulting in more great harmonies. This is quite a powerfully propelled piece that shows PRR’s strengths and imagination at play.
Beyond Our Bodies is a celebratory song about the fragility of life and the body’s ability to overcome incredible difficulties and to come through the other side. This is another compelling song.
Which leads us to the title track and longest song, Eupnea, which is about normal unlaboured or quiet breathing, without volition. This is a song that brings everything together in a 13 odd minute piece of contrasts, in which heavy passages sit next to lighter more gentle ones in a juxtaposition of light and shade that accentuate the emotional roller coaster that this music takes you through.
This entire album is certainly a very moving journey, and one that I urge you to join, partly as at the time of writing this review the world is struggling to cope with the Covid 19 (Coronavirus). This album follows a different scenario with, thankfully, a positive outcome.
A simply marvellous album that will be on many ‘best of’ 2020 lists I’m sure. A fine album indeed, very emotionally raw, it rocks hard too.
If, like me, you are unaware of the music of Pure Reason Revolution, then this album is a fine introduction and will hopefully whet your appetite to discover more from this fine outfit. Jon and Chloe have produced an album of depth and intelligence here that really deserves to be widely heard. Highly recommended indeed.
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