Pure Reason Revolution - Plug ‘N’ Play
Live Review

Pure Reason Revolution – Plug ‘N’ Play, Reading

I had heard a lot about Pure Reason Revolution and seen that they had supported Porcupine Tree on their recent European dates, so I thought it would be worthwhile to go along and see them in Reading at the Glasswerk promoted event at the Plug ‘N’ Play on Thursday 5 March, and I was not disappointed that I had gone along.  I got there early to make sure I could get one of the limited editions cd singles on offer, and it was easy to find the venue, relatively close to Reading station, with parking nearby.  It’s a friendly, compact venue with a small raised stage which faces the bar, and it was all very well organised.

I was there early enough that I got chatting with The Wookies outside before they had to go in to set up.  They were a very pleasant bunch and we clearly had a similar taste in music, although now that I am in review mode I have to refer to them as Zann Arkwright and Rear Admiral Rambendrix, among others.  It’s interesting because, on a general level, I would not say that they actually sound like anyone else, but there are clearly structures within their tracks which come from their liking for King Crimson, and that’s hardly a bad starting point.  “Cool.  We’re The Wookies”, and they were off into their opening number, In Reply, featuring two guitars and keyboards alongside the drums and bass, and it has a 60s feel, a bit psychedelic in places, a light guitar solo and the song is bouncy but with a hard edge.  They carry straight on, and Doomsday has an interesting structure and rhythm, helped by band clapping at the beginning, with the guitar flowing over the top with a very clear sound – it’s like an uptempo, manic waltz at times, and the vocals are interesting too, the way they form their harmonies.  There is a pause for some lovely synth work before the guitar solo takes hold, and there is a now a rounded sound to this good rocking track, which ends with a fast and furious feel.  Reminiscent of the madder moments of The Coral.  They do not stop – it is like we have a musical interlude between tracks – and we have the racing beat of Fools War, the building guitar sound explodes and rocks on, and they really do have some fascinating composition within their tracks, backed up by a great sound which is very well performed, and this track features some lovely melody and changes of rhythm.  And then they finally stop, to introduce a new song, Broken Beak, and we are off again with a sharpness to the guitar sound which clashes nicely with their vocal sound, giving a feeling of imbalance, something is uneasy, very sharp synth sounds, there is a very hard edge here, another furious feel as they build layer upon layer to produce a chaotic ‘noise’ – it’s brilliant !  Wash The Night Eyes is another new one and they have placed them in the middle of the set so if they are really awful we will forget them, but there’s no chance of that…of them being awful, not of us forgetting them.  The guitar intro comes in with drums and thumping bass, an anthemic opening for this slower number, which starts to build and then lets go, with angry vocals and a guitar sound which reminds me of U2 when they used to be good.  And it carries straight into How Good Does It Feel, an upbeat, airy number, bouncy, with their particular vocal style, combining their many voices into something as fun as a singalong, while the guitars and synths are giving us a lovely warm feel.  They close with In The Forest, an upbeat blues guitar intro, hard and fast, lively vocal harmonies, more singalong, and then a guitar dominated sound cranks in and we are racing, flowing through a flurry opf guitar before it pauses, then launches off again, to be joined by the synth playing the same theme as they head into a big false finish, more vocal harmonies, then we take off again with a hard guitar sound being driven by the drums.  It’s a hard rocking 70s sound and a catchy vocal line – a great way to close an interesting, fascinating set, which has included far too much to take in with one viewing – most definitely a band who need to be experienced often.  You can catch them next at another Glasswerk show at the Purple Turtle in Camden on Friday 13 March.

Next up are the Fox Cubs, who are really making a name for themselves and have just been featured on C4.  They opened with In The Basement, a sharp indie sound, big drums hitting us into sharp guitar licks, it’s uptempo and driven by the bass, with a staccato feel and a clipped ending, reminiscent of Gary Numan.  Gold & Silver has a clapping intro and it is now clear that a lot of the audience are here for the Fox Cubs.  More big drums and bass, vocals straining with a sense of despair, reminding me of The Cure, the guitar comes in and it soars, races, uptempo with a good melody, pausing before taking off again and leading us through to the end of the track.  These are big compositions with a solid, rounded sound behind them.  A drum and cymbal intro takes us into The City & The Stars, with the bass and guitar cutting over the top as the vocals come in, a rattling feel as it pushes on, the rhythm makes me think of The Police, as we hit big guitar bursts, which are held in control by the drums.  Next up is Spies and a synth sound being joined by thumping bass, and the excellent vocals have me thinking of The Cure again, and the track itself has a more upbeat Cure sound to it, which is no bad thing.  There is a very pointed guitar part to finish which hits some wonderful feedback.  Comfort has a big guitar intro, an echoing sound, a sharp rhythm as the track wants to drift and float, but the drums and bass keep it grounded, but lend a sense that it is off-balance at times before it settles, but still with bursts of guitar and drums and bass within the track.  It has a gentle melody, which is very enjoyable and catchy, and finally the guitar sound is allowed to soar as the track closes.  They finish with Live For The Night, bursts of lead guitar soaring while the rhythm guitar tries to keep a hold on things, the song builds then plateaus, the drums build it again before more bursts of guitar and feedback to end – it is an epic sound.  It has been a very polished, enjoyable performace, some great anthems which could very easily find their way into the mainstream very quickly.  They are now heading off to support former Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, on some UK dates, and you can catch them at The Barfly in Camden on Monday 16 March – but you had better catch them soon because I cannot help thinking they will not be playing these sized venues for very much longer.

I had not heard anything by Pure reason Revolution before going along to this gig, so I did not know what to expect.  I certainly was not expecting Gremlins In Machina, rather than Deus Ex Machina – they tried and failed to get into the opening track, Les Malheurs, twice before problems with the synth killed it both times.  However, third time lucky and we were off into a million stunning soundscapes.  Now that I have heard the albums (relentlessly) I am amazed that they can recreate that sound on stage, but they do, and it is very powerful.  It was a bold move to open with a track off the new album, Amor Vincit Omnia, but they pulled it off, the guitar and drums cutting into the synth to create a very sharp sound which built up in many, many layers, was edgy with some lovely echoing, and the guitar comes in to the more electro based moments with greater melody, before the track recovers its harsh, sharp sound.  It sets a tone for the evening.  They continue with another new track, Apogee, and the sampled sounds we start with are melodic, but edgy again, its fast and furious with a wonderful vocal sound, the combination of the voices striking, and we are getting more rhythm than melody and the track is racing, a hard sound, depth from the drums before a pause which leads into a melodic part, echo sounds from the guitar and almost before we know it we are in a third new track, Deus Ex Machina, another track with a harsh feel, sharp sounds, the guitar is piercing.  the track wants to be bouncy, but it has a flatness within itself that keeps it down, that won’t allow it to float, and then the bass sounds are holding it down and everything feels compacted, constricted, the vocals are quite sinister, the atmosphere builds, it feels like it should be space rock but it is almost too dark to be that, and powerful guitar bursts take us through to the end of an awesome track.  The Bright Ambassadors Of Morning, from their first album, The Dark Third, has a much more treble opening, with the guitar still piercing at times, but floating, airy, the synths firing out laser bolts among the guitar bursts, the bass keeping us grounded as the synths try to allow us to float, the drums are light too, bouncy, as the track pauses, builds in layers, the voices looping, the guitar cutting in, flying, gliding, going through a distressed feel before it pauses, bursts out, rocks, there is anow a wall of noise as the track progresses and it leaves nothing remaining in its wake.  Atmospheric samples take us into yet another new track, Victorious Cupid, with its high vocal intro, which then rocks out with the guitar, the vocals providing a calmness as the drums race on, and there is no let up from this relentless pace.  Then we are back to the first album, with The Twyncyn and Trembling Willows, a soundscape intro leads into the drums kicking in, heavy guitar sound, moaning, some lovely slide work, the mix of vocals is very powerful, effective, unsettling at times, but the guitar still manages to float over them.  Feedback leads into a faster pace, sharper layers around the main theme, rumbling on until the guitar bursts again, a pause, then we are off again, the bass trying to run away, the drums holding it back and we hit a sharp end.  The Gloaming is also from the new album, with an eerie synth intro, the guitar cuts in and rocks over the top, there is so much going on it feels like chaos, but there is real structure to it, the drums keeping us moving, high energy, lots of electro sounds within this one, its so intrictae, the vocals being used as another instrument, instruments, the synth creating such an atmosphere for little guitar bursts to cut across, and we end with a sonar sound.  The audience seem subdued when the band announce that the new album is on sale (ahead of the official release date) and apologises for the slow start to the set.  The drums thump in, synths are more light and melodic over the top and it is the final track of the set, AVO – so we have had over half of the new album tonight, and it really has sounded superb.  This has a more gentle, mellow opening, but still the drums are thumping out.  The vocals are floaty when they first come in, but again take on that sinister feel in repetition, and guitar bursts grind us on through another excellent track.  It has been an outstanding set for me, and to be honest has totally blown me away – the power, the vibrancy, the ideas within each track, the way they all interact with each other to produce this sound.  This is a cutting edge band who produced a stunning set and I have already planned to go and see them again in London at Dingwalls on Tuesday 17 March, and may well take the trip to the Cockpit in Leeds on Thursday 12 March as well, to get another slice of sonic entertainment.

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