Pure Reason Revolution - Cautionary Tales For The Brave

Album cover

  1. In Aurélia (3:50)
  2. The Bright Ambassadors Of Morning (11:50)
  3. Arrival III / The Intention Craft (8:36)
  4. He Tried To Show Them Magic / Ambassadors Return (5:16)

Sony/BMG, 2005

It's rare that I support a new band who haven't released a full album yet, and it's something I should do a lot more often. Admittely they are a band marketed by a major record company principally as prog rock, which is enough to catch my shallow attention. Musicians might be irritated by genre labels like these, but the less po-faced press and public will always love categories and reference points.

Pure Reason Revolution made a few waves in 2005 with their ten minute single "The Bright Ambassadors of Morning", which is included on this mini-album along with three shorter songs. The title of this ambitious track is a proud quotation of Pink Floyd's "Echoes". For a band to flaunt their influences so openly can be risky. It often shows lack of integrity, but for a band starting out it can be a useful strategy. The "new Floyd" reviews must have gained them a fair few purchases, including mine. But thankfully they did more than enough to establish their own sound on this track and elsewhere on the mini-album, fusing each piece from several equally-absorbing sections of decadent atmospheric rock.

The way the central track "Bright Ambassadors" begins, with lazy beats and spacey synth effects, continuing into an echoey riff, might make Pink Floyd fans prick up their ears and think of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". But it gives you a jolt when the vocals come in, and they are almost drowned out by swathes of harmonies, guitars and keyboards. Not too subtle, so it's a relief when these excesses are swept away for a chorus to die for. It might be the most repetitive thing you have heard for years. There are over 20 repeats of the title in a row, but each repetition adds or takes away a little bit of harmony, and amazingly it keeps on being compelling. It continues with a great cascade of riff-led instrumentals, culminating in a reprise of the chorus and a grandiose symphonic sweep.

The size of their guitar riffs, like the chugger that starts "In Aurelia", shows that they're first and foremost a rock band, closer to Led Zeppelin than Floyd. On top of that, it's heavily produced, presumably helped by major-label funding. Masses of keyboards, thundering basslines, and showers of electronics add to their spacey feel. The first thing that really sets them apart is their imposing style of vocal harmony, shown first by the thundering unison chorus of "In Aurelia". They cite the Beach Boys as influences, which might be technically true in the way they blend, but the effect is more Queen than sugary pop. Pomp-rock that hits you in the face, but takes a completely distinctive turn. The interplay between the lead voices of Jon Courtney and Chloe Alper are showcased best on the chorus of "The Intention Craft", a tighter and equally strong follow-up single to "Bright Ambassadors".

Their music is in the forward-thinking spirit of prog but not retro, fusing their influences with plenty of modern gestures and personality. There'll always be space for that on the musical landscape, so I eagerly anticipate the treats in store for their first full-length album.

March 15, 2006

8 out of 10

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written and maintained by Christopher Jackson