Chloe Alper, Apprentice of the Universe @chloealper

Chloe Alper, whose magical voice and versatile musicianship was no small contribution to the enduring magic of Pure Reason Revolution, is doing some very interesting solo work these days, creating amazing music that still gives us “something to dream about” — to quote PRR’s first-released song, “Apprentice of the Universe” (April 19, 2004, on Poptones MC5089SCD).

Check out this nifty video for her current project, Tiny Giant, which showcases the witty single “Thirsty,” the first of a double A-side:

“The Intention Craft” by Pure Reason Revolution

On Oct 24, 2005, the enhanced CD was released, as catalogue number SonyBMG 6759302. Included were three tracks plus a video:

1. The Intention Craft
2. Sound Of Free
3. Asleep Under The Eiderdown
4. The Intention Craft (Video)

The three tracks were also released on 10″ blue vinyl with a picture sleeve (as SonyBMG 6759306).

Even more rare, there was also a white label, white sleeve 10″ vinyl pressing, exclusively for record company staff, the band, and management (and, confusingly, also numbered SonyBMG 6759306).

The entire album of The Dark Third was then released on April 10, 2006, but without “The Intention Craft” on the UK version.

There, The Dark Third was the nine-track version with “The Exact Colour” and “The Twyncyn/Trembling Willows” as tracks 5 and 8, respectively.

Not until July 25, 2006, was the US version released, which was now a ten-track version (adding “Asleep Under Eiderdown” as a hidden track). This was the version that you (like me) probably know best, with “Nimos and Tambos” and “Arrival/The Intention Craft” swapped in for tracks 5 and 8.

For me, “Nimos and Tambos” was the gateway track. It immediately grabbed me and has never, ever let go since.

In my own playlist, I find the album flows perfectly with the US tracks for 5 and 8 placed immediately after the UK tracks for 5 and 8 respectively.

I call this 12-track playlist “The Definitive Version,” and I wish someone would do a CD reissue with this optimal track order, all on one CD.

As a band we’re fascinated with the questions raised about the origins and meanings of dreams. By the time we die we’ll have spent more than six years of our life dreaming, and a third of our lives asleep, relays Pure Reason Revolution’s lyricist/songwriter Jon Courtney. The Dark Third is kind of a concept album that investigates the supposedly sharp boundary between dreaming and wakefulness, and that perhaps the two states aren’t so different. So begins the surrealistic sonic journey of The Dark Third, Pure Reason Revolution’s explosive debut album. A love of art and a passion for music come together on their debut, where the surreal serves as inspiration for concrete lyrical and musical ideas. Pure Reason Revolution’s sound marries all that is good in rock `n’ roll, an infectious blend of today’s pop sensibilities and classic rock stylings as refreshing as it is timeless.

Other advance singles included: “Apprentice of the Universe” (Apr 19, 2004, with “Nimos and Tambos” as the B-side) and “The Bright Ambassadors of Morning” (Apr 11, 2005, also with a video of the song).

Also preceding the full album was a limited promo sampler:

1. Goshen Remains
2. Apprentice of the Universe
3. The Bright Ambassadors of Morning
4. Bullits Dominae
5. The Intention Craft

More widespread was the sampler Cautionary Tales for the Brave (Oct 3, 2005), SonyBMG 82876725952:

1. In Aurelia
2. The Bright Ambassadors Of Morning
3a. Arrival
3b. The Intention Craft
4a. He Tried To Show Them Magic
4b. Ambassadors Return

“In Aurelia” was also later released as a single (Nov 2005), and on An Introduction to Pure Reason Revolution (July 2006):

1. Nimos & Tambos
2. The Twyncyn / Trembling Willows
3. Asleep Under Eiderdown
4. In Aurelia
5. The Intention Craft

Note how this sampler ends with “The Intention Craft.”

Because The Dark Third is such a startling, unexpected masterpiece that towers above decades of releases, it deserves to be kept in print, but this time in a definitive edition. I would add “In Aurelia” and “Sound of Free” to fill out such a one-disc edition, to 14 tracks.

Second Spring #6: “Bright Ambassadors of Morning” by Pure Reason Revolution

prr dark third
From 2006.

Taking the name of the song from lyrics by Pink Floyd, Pure Reason Revolution offered some of the best existentialist-electronica prog of the first decade of the 21st century with the fourth track–“Bright Ambassadors of Morning”–from their first and finest studio album, THE DARK THIRD.  The entire album is nothing if not a masterpiece, a blistering and loving whole, a deep and abiding well of creativity.

Not until nearly six minutes into the album does a human voice even appear, letting the listener know that this album is a work of art, not an attempt at popular cash-making.

The album itself deals with the dream state of human existence–the one third of our lives in which we allow the sandman to invade and Morpheus to rule.

TimeLord emailed me over the weekend, and we “talked” nothing but Pure Reason Revolution.  Since receiving the first email from my favorite progarchist Canadian philosopher, I’ve not listened to much else.  Three days later, and it seems critical to make this track my sixth Second Spring.

Continue reading “Second Spring #6: “Bright Ambassadors of Morning” by Pure Reason Revolution”

My Best of 2017???

Let me just state from the outset that I love that Chris had the gumption to post his favorites albums of the year already.  We’re not even in December, Chris!  Love it.

So, just as an experiment, I checked my player’s settings and calculated the albums I listened to the most.  While I can’t claim this to be a fair statement of what I think the best of the year was–after all, some albums, such as Glass Hammer’s UNTOLD TALES.  It’s only had a month to compete against some albums that have had 11 months.  Still, it’s a marker.

Additionally, because my player calculates the number of plays for the year total, it registers all albums in my collections, not just those that came out in 2017.  So, by the number, folks, by the numbers—the ten most played albums in the Birzer house for the last 11 months.

No. 10 most played of 2017:

Glass Hammer Untold

 

Continue reading “My Best of 2017???”

PRR’s THE DARK THIRD: 10 Years Later

thedarkthird
One of at least three different covers for this album.

If there’s anything in the music world quite like Pure Reason Revolution’s first full album, THE DARK THIRD, I’ve never encountered it.  Of course, I can think of Talk Talk, Lush, Pink Floyd, My Bloody Valentine, Porcupine Tree, Cocteau Twins, NAO, and Newspaperflyhunting. . . but PRR is still something rather altogether different.

Even upon my very first listen, I remember being just utterly dazzled.  Hard to believe that has already been a decade ago.  it was the first album I ever purchased as a download.  Frankly, I hate downloads, and I have long since bought the actual physical CD of THE DAR THIRD, but I remember well putting my credit card number in and waiting nervously for it to appear in iTunes.

Continue reading “PRR’s THE DARK THIRD: 10 Years Later”

Vertica: Evoking and Melding the Spirits of Flannery O’Connor and Sixpence

Review of Vertica, The Haunted South (Radiant Records, 2014). Songs: Holding Smoke; Temperance; Ghost of Summer; Always; Obsidian; You’ve Been Warned; The Wind Has Teeth; Believing and Pretending; The Furthest Place; Open Water; Pearl; One Last Chance to Resurrect; Go North.

The band: Emily Brunson (Lead Vocals); Tyler Downey (Guitar, Vocals); Joshua Ruppert (Bass); James McCurley (Drums, Vocals, Piano).  Producer and Engineer: Jerry Guidroz

Verticals first album, the very gothic (southern gothic, that is) THE HAUNTED SOUTH.
Vertica’s first album, the very gothic (southern gothic, that is) THE HAUNTED SOUTH.

For quite a while in the 1990s, I thought pop couldn’t get much better than Sixpence None the Richer. The first album grabbed me, the second captivated me, and the third floored me. Absolutely floored me. I still think that third one (their 1997 self titled album) one of the best albums I’ve ever heard or probably ever will hear. It’s not at the level of Skylarking or Songs from the Big Chair, but it’s very, very close. Then, of course, came the fourth album, Divine Discontent. What a disappointment. Granted, it wasn’t the kind of disappointment I felt with Pure Reason Revolution’s Amor Vincit Omnia—which I discarded rather unceremoniously after only a few listens. What a piece of barnyard excrement that was. I’m honestly not sure how a band could fall so quickly and steeply.

Stop, Birzer! This isn’t an article about your personal rants or about the decline of PRR (though, The Dark Third is just so, so could—how could they fall apart so quickly. . . ).

Vertica's four members.
Vertica’s four members.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to praise a great (brilliant) new band. I’ve had a review copy of Vertica’s The Haunted South for a little over a month now. And, I’ve thought about writing this review ten to twenty times, at least. Today, I finally made myself write it. By made myself—I don’t want to suggest writing this is a burden. It’s not a burden in the least, though it is hard work. Why? The album is just so good, I owe it the very best review I can give it. The album is so good, writing a review of it somewhat intimidates me. On the good side. . . in the time I’ve had a copy of this album, I’ve listened to it at least thirty times. Probably once a day.

It’s not prog, but it is very fine pop-rock with lots of art and prog elements. If you could combine the best of Mazzy Star, Sixpence None the Richer, The Cranberries, and IZZ, you’d come very close to the excellence of this band. Some of it is folkish, some of it is simply poetic, some of it is gothic, some of it is pop, and some of it is very hard.

Yet, with nothing but excellence, The Haunted South all flows together.

There’s something distinctive about the voice of the lead vocalist, Emily Brunson. She does sound a bit like the lead singer of Sixpence, but without the coyishly girlish voice often employed on the poppier tunes of Sixpence. Brunson’s voice can be sweet, but it’s always utterly earnest and never saccharine. The lead songwriter, James McCurley, knows exactly how to write music to fit Brunson’s near perfect vocals as well. Anyway, no matter what style of music or genre Vertica is employing, Brunson’s vocals are so good and so distinctive, they essentially become the sound of the band.

This brings me to McCurley. This is a guy to watch over the next several years and even decades. He’s already proven his talent, now he will show us what a force he is. He can write music very well. I assume he’ll only get better. But, his greatest strength is his lyric writing. I’m always a sucker for great lyrics, and these are great lyrics. Poetic in a mysterious, haunting, fog-filled woods kind of way. Listening to this lyrics, I feel as though I’ve found a connection to the voice and soul of Flannery O’Conner, fifty years later.

If you order this CD, and you should, avoid the download. Not because the music isn’t wonderful—because it is—but because you owe it to yourself to own the booklet, complete with lyrics.

Oh, boy. Love finding new things. I’ll be following Vertica for years to come. And, the adventure has just begun.

To order (and you should; early and often), click either of these links.

https://vertica.bandcamp.com/album/the-haunted-south

http://www.radiantrecords.com/products/555-vertica-the-haunted-south.aspx

Four Years Ago Today: Recollections

More reflections from the past.  This one from four years ago today, January 1, 2010.  Still lots of love for Steven Wilson.

***

mobile_pic1A Steven Wilson solo albums can only come out every so often, sadly.  Technically, “Insurgentes” came out at the beginning of 2009.  But, for us Wilson nerds who follow his career way too closely, “Insurgentes” came out in 2008, even only in Wilson’s self-proclaimed hated MP3.  According to my iTunes stats, “Insurgentes” remains my most played cd of this past year.

It was closely followed, again according to my iTunes stats, by Guilt Machine, “On This Perfect Day,” Oceansize, “Frames,” and Riverside, “ADHD.”

Like the cat who adopted us in the summer of 2009 and with whom/which I fell in love, Guilt Machine has been a constant for me since its release in the summer.

There were however, two really, really disappointing CDs.  So disappointing in fact that I’m embarrassed I own them:

  • Dream Theater                      “Black Clouds and Silver Linings”
  • Pure Reason Revolution       “Love Conquers All”

Not sure what either group was thinking in the direction taken.

And, finally, a fun and novel album, but almost assuredly nothing that will stick with me for years to come:

  • Muse                           “The Resistance”

Lyrically, a great album, and moments of absolute musical genius can be found everywhere.  But, excess whimsy mars the album, and everytime I doubted how serious the musicians were about this, I doubted my interest in their project.

 

[Additional note found: “Thus far, 2009 has been bleak.  Dream Theater’s new album, “Black Clouds and Silver Linings,” serves as an incoherent exercise in notes chasing notes and embarrassingly written lyrics.  Pure Reason Revolution’s “Amor Vincit Omnia” offers nothing but miserable sexual decadence and ridiculous Euro dance-type music.  The title should’ve been Lust Conquers All, not Love Conquers All.  How this could be the same band that released the captivating “The Dark Third,” I have no idea.”]