Sunday, May 27, 2007

New Levels of Sorrow

This post you're reading right now has been staring at me as a draft every time I log in for the past three months now. I just can't find the right words to finish my thoughts on a record that was the soundtrack to a pretty nasty winter here in Ohio. After repeated plays earlier in the year with an advance copy I acquired, I took a long break from this challenging dose of bleak folk and scraping anti-psychedelia until finally grabbing a vinyl copy from Mr. Pink Reason himself, Kevin DeBroux, who at this point calls the road home and considers Columbus as much as a spiritual resting place as his "actual" home in Wisconsin. In many ways this record is the the soundtrack to a young man's wanderlust, modern gypsy music to greet the apocalypse. I've seen Pink Reason four times in five months and never has the lineup been the same, nor the sound or feel or attitude. In fact all four times have been drastically different and have all gotten increasingly better as DeBroux rapidly becomes more comfortable with his own talent and his place in this world. This is only the beginning of a very long, most likely life-long, trip....
Anti-psychedelia...I like that. For a while, during my initial absorption into Cleaning the Mirror, I was calling this the saddest record I've ever heard, ever. More sorrowful than anything Ian Curtis - whom DeBroux uncannily resembles in voice - sang on, more strangely dramatic than Tim Buckley's weirdest sides, more dryly melancholic than even Nikki Sudden's starkest moments. There's really only one artist who has touched this level of sadness, and that's Nico. Yeah, I forgot about those Nico records, Marble Index and Desertshore. That's some desperate shit. But there's something about DeBroux's voice, and the key his songs are played in, and the strict black and whiteness of the way it is recorded that makes this so heart-wrenching. It makes my dog sad.
Cleaning the Mirror is a record that will swallow you whole, but never tries to. One listen to a song like "Thrush", with its post-industrial skeleton rhythm, or "Storming Heaven", the four-horsemen's drinking anthem, or the slightly (comparatively) upbeat "Dead End" - the album's cheeriest song is called "Dead End", and the chorus asks "where did we go wrong?", and you'll be hooked. Not becauase of emotional bells and whistles or outsider angst or anything like that, this isn't the Cure and it isn't Jandek either. This record is just one person's representation of truth; he's cleaning the mirror for us to see his perspective more clearly. Stay tuned for chapter two, because the first one is a masterpiece. Out now on Siltbreeze.

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