Mr. Doug Mosurak of DustedMagazine.com takes a stab at Pink Reason's outsider ways.
Artist: Pink Reason
Album: Cleaning the Mirror
Review date: Apr. 19, 2007
It’s pretty easy to see how some might conflate loneliness with isolation. Green Bay, WI’s Kevin de Broux, who performs under the moniker Pink Reason, knows the difference, and his music does all that it can to stem the tide that runs between these two poles. He’s got his work cut out for him; at one point, Goth and its dyed-dark culture had enough support to fan out to American suburbs, and nascent teenage minds were desiccated with a musical mope that truly spoke to their Byzantine emotional maladies. Anything slow, sad and dirge-like was more or less relegated to names written in Sharpie on purple Jansport or with paint pen on black leather. Pink Reason’s musical output thus far speaks to a past consumed by Goth, but also an awakening of the sensibilities that subvert the ornate perfection that most Gothic music seems to rely upon. Nowadays, Goth factions are by and large marginalized by Hot Topic and Torrid mall culture, forced into spectacle (VNV Nation on the industrial side, the Faint for indie chunks, and Dresden Dolls for fine arts students ‘n’ grads) or abuse (any number of eyeliner-bearing metallic “screamo” choad bands), but you’ll give me back that time in our lives when it could have also mean the Cure, or Siouxsie, or Dead Can Dance for the sake of my argument, thank you very much.
His first single projected a mysterious loner vibe, pinned mewling like a specimen to a Kate Bush album cover. For its reissue, its strange, blurry sleeve photo of a bleached-blonde, gender-bent gothling was replaced by a drawing of a swastika fashioned out of cocks and balls, swapping one mystery with another. Cleaning the Mirror, Pink Reason’s debut full-length, presents a series of similarly stark and ambiguous imagery: a dead sunflower, a commode, a mostly-empty fridge, a picture of what looks like de Broux grappling with a bar bouncer. Likewise, gently-worn, suggestive ready-mades have soaked into de Broux’s soil, and are represented in all of the material he’s released. Barely-there, sustained acoustic death marches atomize into the still air, leavened by virtually no production value whatsoever. Tape hiss (and tape disintegration), outmoded drum samples, even a phone ringing in the background point to Cleaning the Mirror as a record made at home on no budget, time and roommates permitting. Culled from some three years worth of material, these six songs grind away with a phantom brilliance, their glacial tempos and stumbling progressions freed of pop structures to give the impression that they have truly come from a big, stark nowhere.
Surface listens find Cleaning the Mirror in league with a type of lo-fi aesthetic that lines up with the early 1990s and their impending revival, right down to the reactivated Siltbreeze imprint whose name this album bears. Labels like Shrimper and Road Cone built their lowercase aesthetics on drowsy, hand-produced cassette releases by groups like Bugskull and Refrigerator, two examples in particular that share in the charred, dented-can charms that Pink Reason reproduces. The twice-removed alienation that drove groups like Black Tape for a Blue Girl and Lycia merit reference as well for the replicated crawling crush and apocalyptic melancholy gathering at their stone feet. That these songs are essentially loose blues-based mantras separate Pink Reason from much of the forlorn pack. That de Broux uses three singing voices (one jarring and awkward, on “Dead End,” the record’s most upbeat offering, another a Mick Jagger-esque drawl, and a third a recently-awoken moan that allows itself to sink below the music into mystery and incomprehension) distances itself further. That the mood prevails here (and on more recent recordings - check Myspace - done with a full band that blast through newer material with unmitigated feedback and the harsh, angsty energy that once propelled Sebadoh) keeps things unique. Starting sardonically with “Goodbye,” de Broux’s sanguine, descending chords float by like tumbleweeds decelerating in the fields after the freight train blows past the dusty fields. “Thrush” fogs up the proceedings with a Booker T.-esque organ replacing the guitars, its altered and off-kilter musings ringing through behind slow patterns of drum machine and clanging metal. “Motherfucker” haunts like Jandek (or more accurately, Luxurious Bags) but with the twang of Neil Hagerty’s preternatural Stones worship. “Storming Heaven” disposes of an icy, industrial beat in favor of the record’s most bleak and faded moments, the master tape even giving way in the middle, as likely to a mechanical flub as to material fatigue.
Through it all, the music remains compelling, de Broux understanding that when certain expectations from the singer-songwriter equation are removed – fully splitting off from any pulsebeat that might have charged this music while still keeping consistent with his own ways of seeing – the end results pay off dividends. It’s a puzzling gambit that intrigues, forcing the audience to dig deeply into the material in order to examine it, and at the same time keeps de Broux and his motives handily obscured. He’s somewhat of a character in person, one who doesn’t put forward any tangible sort of outsider vibes. And it’s that character which really makes these songs snap, even in their morbidity and emotional violence. Records like this one could easily underscore the undoing of so many other acts’ contrived and twisted efforts, a sonic lamprey attaching fear and self-doubt onto the audience’s shoulders and off of his own. Music like this has never failed to find its host, from which it will feed hungrily.
By Doug Mosurak
Upcoming PR tour dates
05/18 Chicago, IL @ WHPK 88.5 FM
05/19 Chicago, IL @ Ekhart Quad @ University of Chicago
05/21 Green Bay, WI @ Main Stage
05/27 Orlando, FL @ Wet T-Shirt Wild Weekend (day show)
07/14 Seattle, WA @ Funhouse
07/16 Portland, OR @ Rotture
07/17 Oakland, CA @ Stork Club (w/ Wooden Shjips)
07/18 San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock Tavern
07/19 Sacramento, CA @ Fools Foundation
07/22 Omaha, NE @ Cleavers