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Revelators Sound System - Revelators Music Album Reviews

Revelators Sound System - Revelators Music Album Reviews
A new instrumental project from Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor and Cameron Ralston drifts between moments of tranquility and cosmic dissonance.

M.C. Taylor doesn’t shy away from the big questions. As the bandleader of the soul-tinged Americana group Hiss Golden Messenger, he’s spent the past decade ruminating on existential mysteries with increasingly open-ended, inconclusive results. As he put it on 2021’s Quietly Blowing It, “When it all feels strange, do the words have no meaning?” Revelators Sound System, his new instrumental project with producer/bassist Cameron Ralston, searches for clarity where language falls short.

Their debut LP, Revelators, uses the hypnotic modal grooves of early 1970s jazz—particularly Pharoah Sanders’ meditative atmosphere and Miles Davis’ multilayered funk fusion—as a point of reference for its four lengthy jams. Opening track “Grieving” pulls specifically from Davis’ work, laying down a frenetic bassline as a springboard for a battalion of woodwinds. Saxophone riffs spiral in all directions as melodic phrases materialize and quickly taper, dissolving into the whole. While it may structurally resemble the spliced electric-jazz of Live-Evil and On the Corner, the timbre is more aligned with the dreamy post-minimalism of the band’s 37d03d labelmates like Big Red Machine and James McAlister. Cloaked in reverb and atmospheric keys, it doesn’t quite bite, but it does gnaw.

Even in his new role as free-jazz bandleader, Taylor’s work is strongest when left unresolved. The hushed minor chords and rambling melodies that characterize his folk material carry over into Revelators in charming ways. Intro track “Grieving,” which Ralston described as being “about what it feels like to be American today,” is gripping in its opening half, contorting as if trying to determine the ideal sitting position in an uncomfortable chair. Six minutes in, the band drifts into a drumless, keyboard-driven lull that sets a tone for the rest of the album. The ambience is soothing, spiced with heaving sax and bluesy piano, but it interrupts the improvisational flow, fading into the next track before they’ve had the chance to fully explore its potential.

The two tracks comprising Revelators’ middle section venture deeper into ambient-jazz territory. “Collected Water” is sumptuous yet stagnant, with JC Kuhl’s wailing saxophone swirling in a pool of delayed keys and heavily affected guitar. “Bury the Bell” is a more interesting variation on the sound. Backed by a string section, Stuart Bogie’s clarinet investigates its alien surroundings, leaving swaths of warmth against the eerie orchestral haze. These songs form a quiet retreat from the tumultuous introduction, letting the band process its dense web of rhythm. If “Grieving” conjures the sustained bleakness of its political climate, the following tracks are a prescribed dose of optimism.

In a 2021 interview with Holler, Taylor discussed his inclination toward “leaving space for hope, or leaving space for the possibility of hopefulness, which is kind of different than protest music.” That sense of space plays a crucial role in determining which moments pack the greatest emotional punch. The cascading keys in “Collected Water” make it occasionally feel like wallpaper music, imposing tranquility instead of offering a path to find it for ourselves. Closer “George the Revelator” revisits the opening track’s dubby krautrock percussion, albeit in a more subdued form. The string section takes the lead, swelling with Morricone-esque flourishes as JT Bates’ snare fills echo and roll. It’s Revelators Sound System’s most confident and conclusive performance, offering a tidy ending to a complicated record. Even as they smooth out the cosmic dissonance that makes this project’s most memorable moments feel greater than the sum of their influences, you can sense Taylor veering closer than ever to the transcendence he’s been seeking.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Revelators Sound System - Revelators Music Album Reviews Revelators Sound System - Revelators Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, June 24, 2022 Rating: 5

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