Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea Review

This week my good friend TheKenWord got his hands on a pretty sweet doom album from Loviatar. When I saw the score assigned, and went back and listened to Lightless, I was kind of upset with myself for not grabbing it when I had the chance. But then I remembered why I left it alone: Eupnea, the first album from Pure Reason Revolution in ten years. When people talk about PRR’s first three albums (all released between 2006-2010), comparisons to Pink Floyd, Muse1, and Tool are often mentioned. I may not be totally on board with the third reference, but Pink Floyd and Muse definitely leave their mark on this duo. The question, as it always is with these long layovers, is can the band deliver with urgency and vitality?

The subject matter singer/songwriter Jon Courtney had to work with certainly helps. Eupnea deals with all the emotions that came with his wife giving birth two months early – the medical scares, the elation, the exhaustion, the wide-eyed miracle of birth. In fact, eupnea means normal, quiet breathing, and it’s a theme throughout, with his daughter Jessie starting off on an incubator. What that means is there is a lot of lyrical heft throughout, and knowing the background just adds to the emotional impact of lyrics like “Breathe – you made it to here. And hold on, hold on, hold on, they’re putting Mother back together.” Goosebumps.

Lyrics mean nothing without great songs, and a handful of the six songs Pure Reason Revolution have put together here nudge up against greatness numerous times. “New Obsession” opens the album with hospital blips and beeps before the music starts, which to someone in my house sounds like Frank Duvall’s “If I Could Fly Away.”2 It’s an exquisite cut, especially when Courtney is joined on the mic with bandmate Chloe Alper, who adds bass and keyboard playing to her gifted vocal talents here. “New Obsession” is a good, albeit brief at five minutes, example of the dynamics PRR bring, ranging from quiet, delicate moments to fuzz-filled riffs and solos. Epic second track “Silent Genesis” (one of two ten-plus minute songs) further exemplifies Courtney and Alper’s penchant for creating music that effortlessly shifts from ominous and foreboding to airy and joyful – much like the experience of having a newborn in the hospital.

Much of the music on Eupnea owes thanks stylistically to the languid pacing of Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason, to the immaculate tones and arrangements of Porcupine Tree, and the driving, climactic nature of some of The Pineapple Thief’s best work. PRR take those ingredients, add their twist and vocals to them, and deliver several compelling tracks. The title song starts with a highly-processed “Breathe” and a swath of keyboards, serving as a brilliant buildup to the most impactful moment on the album, when the band kicks in with a subtle groove and the afore-mentioned lyric is sung for the first time. Masterful.

It does prove too much to uphold the level of quality of the bookend songs, though, as “Maelstrom” is a forgettable pop number, and “Beyond Our Bodies” fails to engage throughout its mellowness. Pure Reason Revolution are at their most poignant and powerful on Eupnea when making full use of dynamics, suspense, and lyrical impact. The album is immaculately produced, although of course it could be just a touch airier and more expansive, and the vocal performances of Courtney and Alper are excellent. Unfortunately, the band’s more conventional shorter songs are overshadowed by the stellar long tracks.

Eupnea is a more than welcome return to form from Pure Reason Revolution, as it both harkens back to the band’s earlier days while pushing forward musically and lyrically. These lyrics make the album much more powerful than it would be if Courtney and Alper were singing about dystopian futures. I’ve played “Silent Genesis,” “Eupnea,” and “Ghosts & Typhoons” a ton the past month, but sadly, the shorter songs can’t maintain the momentum generated by the epic tracks. PRR come tantalizingly close to delivering a mind-numbingly great record here, and should be proud of this comeback album.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: InsideOut Music
Website: facebook.com/purereasonrevolution
Releases Worldwide: April 3rd, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Don’t laugh, they have some good songs. I’m still trying to get a grip on the bass intro to “Hysteria.”
  2. I suspect only people in Germany and South Africa know who he is.
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