Pure Reason Revolution (PRR) is one of those bands that I need to explore more deeply. They’ve been around for quite a while, with a long period of inactivity, but every time I hear their work I’m greatly impressed. The new album is called Above Cirrus, and there just isn’t anything negative I can say about it.
PRR emerged from hiatus a few years ago with 2020’s Eupnea, an album that still thrills me, even if I tend to forget about it sometimes. That is basically my relationship with the band: they are amazing, but I forget about them for six months or so, and then I rediscover them. This time around, the band officially has one more member; the lineup includes: Jon Courtney (guitar, vocals, keys), Chloe Alper (bass, vocals, keys), and Greg Jong (guitars, vocals).
If you aren’t familiar with the band, they fill their own space in the musical world. They play a progressive rock that is both melodic and harmonious, as well as brash, locomotive, and daring. While plenty of tender moments abound, their style is typically explosive with razor-sharp guitars, splendid vocal harmonies, and a distinctly modern sparkle.
There is a certain amount of cinema in Above Cirrus. I would say that this album is more nuanced and also more interesting than Eupnea. The vocal hooks also seem to be stronger, especially with three-way harmonies being introduced. Their vocal fireworks are certainly one of their greatest strengths, the luster on the new car, so to speak.
What lies beneath, though, is no pushover. Above Cirrus features some incredible guitar work, ranging from delicate and peaceful to full-on raging distortion. The band is at their best, in my opinion, when they are travelling at such a kinetic pace as to leave me breathless. The song “Phantoms” is a good example of this. As one of the singles, it works well because it is truly beautiful, but it sticks the landing with its climactic, hotheaded barrage of guitars in the second half. That is why I say their music is “brash”: in some ways it feels like a foolhardy teenager rushing forward with little thought to safety or consequences, but somehow the band always balances that well with quieter moments, or perhaps they just know how to manage speed with utter precision.
The seven songs on this album are all wonderful. I love the vocal hooks on “New Kind of Evil” and the harmonies on “Cruel Deliverance”. “Our Prism” is a great opener with its lumbering style. I think the last three songs are the best, though. “Scream Sideways” is one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year; it uses its 10-minute runtime incredibly well, with transition after transition from electronic rockscapes to cinematic portions to pensive interludes to gigantic guitar barricades. It is a truly satisfying song, hitting so many notes perfectly.
Yet, the next two songs are fantastic, as well. “Dead Butterfly” has a darker edge to it with biting guitars, but it’s the spacey vocal moments that I love the most. “Lucid” is the closer, and I love how it is mostly ambient for the first half. It really builds the tension well, and the payoff is worth the wait. It has one of the more difficult choruses to master, also.
Pure Reason Revolution has so much to offer. They have carved out their own niche in the progressive rock world, and their sound is welcome. I think Above Cirrus will take more time to grow on me than Eupnea, but I also think it will stick with me even more. This album has the depth, the layering, and the diversity to become a classic.
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