So much de-familiarized by dint of doctored vodka
by Domenic Maltempi
"I decided to throw it away," she says. "I poured it out on the ground and the stones began to sizzle."
Comment by a Russian woman found in an Australian news article about how Bootleg Russian Vodka kills thousands
Pink Reason is a band primarily consisting of Kevin Debroux who exited the womb and ended up in a small town in northern Wisconsin. He now lives (when he's not everywhere else) in Green Bay. Kevin has never really stayed in one location for long. Since early adolescence, he has not been the denizen of any particular spot much more than eight months or so. I was fortunate enough to hear a Pink Reason song on a kick ass radio station (WFMU 91.1 in New Jersey) driving home from work one day in the moribund summer months of 2006. Pink Reason has been at it for roughly five years. They had a debut full-length album coming out of the Slitbreeze label in early February of '07 called Cleaning the Mirror.
I for one am excited to hear more of a music that has dark, squalid and-bluesy streaks walking along in a gelid path of unidentifiable stray sounds both hard and cushioning. It is music oddly familiar enough to walk around in immediately upon hearing, without cracking your head in the various alien-rotating rooms built by the feel to it. Yes, you can walk inside music if you want to. The music does have a squalor(ish) splatter-like quality to its drones and cadences, a smeary decayed-film of something very resistant to be absorbed even incompletely without creeping back out of you again like some sort of drug to learn foreign languages instantly that causes your own native language comprehension to slowly atrophy into mumbling glack. Have you tried the Swiss-German gels baby-cat?
The mirror of Pink Reason reflects some of the all too familiar things we can feel or see in sharp morose moods or some strangling temporary or otherwise ebullient state, embodied in its sound. But we don't reflect on these familiar or everyday things/qualities in the same way upon listening, staring at that dirty reflection of the as-is-it -is, they become strange to us as they enter.
I want to try within the to give a sense of the fugitive pulse of this very personal and moving music as opposed to mainly clucking about its possible musical or otherwise antecedents, political underpinnings or lack thereof, related artists or 'scene' et cetera. Cleaning the Mirror is a six song album with the first three tunes originally recorded for a limited CD-R demo a few years ago, and retaining as Kevin puts it a 'murky' nebulousness about it, while the three other songs are a bit more recent: KD: "... I recorded the songs on the second side digitally. I borrowed a friend's laptop for one song, used his banjo, mandolin and another friend's sax for that track. Another track was recorded in a bathroom at my parent's house during the middle of the night. I'd been up for days and was inspired/obsessed, recording the thing with a toy keyboard and some scrap metal. I think there is a different feel between both sides of the record and the fact that the equipment used to record them as well as the instrumentation are different makes them distinct from each other, but the process behind the recordings are the same, and topically, the songs even repeat themselves in order. First song - losing a friend, second song - broken heart bullshit, third song - drugs and death. I didn't even notice till right now when I was thinking about it, but yeah... In a way, I guess it's two meditations on the same theme."
A crestfallen, homemade bitter semi-sweet crudeness goes straight to that addled and un-addled mind alike as Pink Reason first caroms through bone and blood, old shirt and girlfriend hair and who knows what else! The subject matter of the songs are maybe familiar enough for most listeners as detailed by Kevin above, but I can't help feeling estranged from my usual clumps of thoughts or feelings as I hear the way he entwines them in his sound and an imagined process of that sound's genesis that follow you around.
Pink Reason has all the alluring but possibly lethal speed-in-slowness alluded to in the Russian woman's quote about fucked up fake-vodka. This woman says: "I decided to throw it away." Do you see her wrist turn with a panicked celerity, and a sallow sort of gloomy euphoria by death through poison averted--- illuminate her face as she eyes the stones getting brutalized below? A difficult and troubling image as translated into sound... I think of it as I listen to Pink Reason. It makes sense, it makes none. Fair. The familiar becomes de-familiarized, causes laughter, but mirthless laughter speckled with crapola. Beckett's writing comes to mind when thinking of this effect.
There is a Pink Reason song fortuitously enough named "Throw it away" that one may hear at this site and find more information in general about PR. The song stridently brushes it's nether face against yours as guitars and drums build a sort of unofficial mantra dressed as a three-tongued-fire around a cool-burning vocal that slowly decants itself into you're gladdened blood stream and knotted head. The song has a particular bluesy odorless smoke about it, a smoke that sort of instructs one to... well, I'm sure it varies depending on the inhaler. I stumbled on the Russian woman's quote found at the top of this article, in a news story after reading something Kevin had written in response to me after I brought up the bootlegged vodka phenomenon. Kevin lived in Russia, and had experience with people, including himself, drinking this shit, selling it, getting poisoned or worse.
Here is a can't-be-anything-but-honest music because it sort of or definitely saved your life, lodged erratically in the half illuminated interstices of current rock 'based' underground music For a young man of 26, Kevin has had a tumultuous life rife with a nowhere to stay—gun in your face itinerancy that has seen him as far away from his native Wisconsin as Siberia. This itinerancy is definitely a motoring force in the shuffling gravity, the beautifully strange deliberations within a song such as Cleaning the Mirror's 'Thrush.'
There are moments in Pink Reason songs where the shuffled hypnotics of the sound loses the listener, leaves them sipping on the can of beer they thought was full and cold only to be spitting out someone's funny-cigarette ashes. "Storming Heaven" another tune on CTM, meanders in certain lengthy stretches into flaccidity relative to the more effective drag and stomp dirty garage psych of other songs. The vocals have less teeth, they remain sheathed too long in a sticky holster. Ammunition rolls around the sloping floor of this one, something seems jammed up, the heavens aren't stormed, they're just lightly rebuked from a tainted corner. This effect may appear in some other Pink Reason songs to a trivial degree elsewhere, but here it is much more salient.
Kevin and I exchanged words in early January 2007. Here he speaks a bit about that migration to old Mother.
RD: My parents were trying to take part in the revolution. They'd smuggle in medical supplies and struggled with the import/export company they founded with their Russian friends while they were drunk on New Years Eve '92. I ended up moving out of my parent's house for the first time then when I moved in with a Russian family. I ended up living with them for about six months, before I moved in with a young mafia member who had his own apartment and kiosk where he sold vodka, smokes, condoms and shit like that. I started getting into drugs and alcohol. I was smoking a lot of shitty Russian weed, popping tranquilizers (roofies were very popular there) and drinking lots and lots of vodka.
* Romanov vodka, India
Advertising slogan: Romanov. As you like it.
* Gzhelka, Russian vodka
Advertising slogan: Take me!
Kevin floated around Wisconsin getting booted and more or less expelled out of various high schools, living on parents couch, or at friend's places, moving about in an ambit of self attrition and spirit-drag. He got the hell out of high school through an alternative program at the age of sixteen, moving out of parent's house again and started living with friends in another city. At this point Kevin tells me:
"I became a highly skilled shoplifter and made money selling drugs. I got deeply involved in the drug scene and ended up living on a farm that grew high quality, high price weed, which is how I was able to kick things off with Pink Reason."
As I hear that full crepitating collection of odd sometimes totally puzzling over-dubbed elements while playing say... "New Violence" on my record player, I wonder if this expert shoplifter past is somehow crouching deep within that sound. New Violence is as barbed to the touch as the seductive talking mirror with gilded handle is to the person picking it up for the first time after he received a nasty bastinado from it at the hands of a stealthy former shift manager. This song walks on tip toe created by various synth-or-other electronic sounds of a chubby ambling gait, engrossing you quickly as vocals are spoken enshrouded in ectoplasm and determined gravity, a perfect match for this hypnotizing space dug for it to tunnel through. Again, so much of the unidentifiable fugitive sound sources fondly bruise one as they listen to that record spin right into the beginning of New Violence. I can hear some sort of shoplifting past presented as an under-force in these cool dark flat lines of synth under and over spaced out ricocheting percussion. Maybe such past activity has many ways of unconsciously presenting themselves in such works, and at least with this artist, it's hard not to be interested in how his personal life has made a large impact on his music.
DM: Do you remember the first song you wrote as Pink Reason?
KD: "I remember that very well. I was living in a one-room efficiency in Superior, Wisconsin. The song is called "Winona" and it's about Winona, MN where an old band of mine called Hatefuck played a show. We ended up staying on a small island on the Mississippi between the Wisconsin and Minnesota borders... shores were lined with these ramshackle houseboats. That band meant a lot to me. I had lived out of a van with my bandmates, not on tour, but because we were all homeless. We were somewhat of a gang, I mean; we did refer to ourselves jokingly as a gang. Anyway, it was becoming increasingly apparent that that period of my life was a thing of the past and my relationship with those people was dissolving and the song was kind of a eulogy for that time and those friends."
There are not many Pink Reason songs that will not evidence some intimation of a world beyond the familiar world through very familiar elements. I have already mentioned the all too covered subject matter turned on its second head and decapitated with drunken blades, but it's also that home-made very personal part of this music, the broken instruments coming together to approximate the life and death of an asphyxiated toy train with a disappearing cargo we've seen on it's make believe route before, pieces of which end up in the places you have barley gotten to know before you have to leave for the next place. There is a strange continuity of the un-lasting going on. Pink Reason de-familiarizes certain qualities about a pop song or music in general whether of a new strain of garage rocked acridness or a warpy construction site daydream burningness to it. But it isn't simply some face lift of the ordinary or a mucking up of the has-been-already.
It seems Pink Reason or music in general really did contribute to seriously saving this guys life. Parts of what he wrote to me about his background and general hardships really struck me forcefully and made me think more about it's relation to his music, how important music can be right down to the core of things. Yet, I think there is much more to Pink Reason than some sort of shit of my life transformed to a gold twist- at one point, Kevin might have harbored this sort of idea to a strong degree, but as he made clear to me.
KD: I don't really have any set concept anymore about what Pink Reason is supposed to be. In the past, I was very attached to the alchemical idea of turning shit into gold. Virtually every song I've recorded was made with broken equipment. I don't even own an electric guitar--a big part of what I was trying to do before I actually started releasing stuff on record instead of just burning people CD's was to take the shit in my life, and the shitty equipment I had and make something beautiful out of it. As pretentious or delusional as it may sound, I took very seriously the belief that what I was doing was a kind of "magick" ritual. I don't think I'm a very superstitious person at all. I wouldn't describe myself as "spiritual" at all. However, my belief in the concept of this (music) as a ritual became an obsession of mine. It wasn't one I discussed with other people though. Apparently, it was a successful idea because I've gotten what I wanted from it.
PSF: Kevin, if there is a more perfect setting for your music you do... I would imagine it to be very informal, like a Nerf two hand touch football game in a condemned laser tag facility. Does any live performance at a non-typical venue come to mind?
KD: Hue Blanc's Joyless Ones come to mind. They're friends of mine from Algoma, a very small town on the shores of Lake Michigan and Wisconsin's answer to Valhalla. Long nights there popping prescription speed, smoking hash out of light bulbs... I really like playing basements, living rooms, garages... There is a certain intimacy about those kinds of environments. I appreciate underagers being able to come out and see us party.
PSF: Are there artists/bands you have come across that you would be OK with aligning yourself with in the same loose constellation or broadly speaking music 'scene?'
KD: There's a dude that goes by the name of Jaguar that's from the Fox Cities. He does avant-trash-blues. I drum with him from time to time. I'd consider him a contemporary of Pink Reason. He's criminally underappreciated locally. He is another home-recorder, with his own magickal philosophy on music. BradX of Last Sons of Krypton, MC Ape and Monkey w/ Attitude and The Evolutions... from Manitowoc, while his style is more straight forward rock 'n roll our lifestyles, commitment and methods are similar. Northeastern Wisconsin really has little punk scene left. The only thing we got is weirdo home recorders prolifically spitting out obscure rock music in low pressings.
PSF: When I listen to you sing I do hear some sort of Siberian ice-furred Jonathan Richman voice looking for a frosty pink painfully immaterial place. I enjoy this sound that I hear particularly in your addictive song "Goodbye," however wrong my take on it. Without yammering too much up the old influence gash, is there any particular mind set or artist's approach that guides how you 'do' vocals in some way?
KD: I suppose that my parents' old Doors records had some amount of influence on my approach to singing, the same way those records did for people like Iggy or Ian Curtis maybe. Although my favorite singers are people like Jack Brewer from Saccharine Trust or Doc Corbin Dart of Crucifucks. People who use their voices like a weapon. Catharsis. I just sing the way it comes out, although I suppose that the hypnotic effect is conscious.
PSF: Is there some sort of goal for P-Reason, musically, personally- just how much does this music mean to you? I can't imagine that it means anything less than a hell of a lot to you.
KD: Pink Reason for me is everything. My goal is essentially to be self-sufficient. I live an ascetic existence. The only tools I have are tools for creative purposes. I simply cannot live the kind of life that others seem to lead with relative ease. It's a very scary prospect sometimes realizing that you have few, if any options. My music is an extension of my being... it changes over time. There is no movement, no unified set of goals other than experiencing and enjoying the world around you. This is my only chance at immortality. This is all I have to save myself.
Pink Reason Facebook site and our 2012 article on Pink Reason
Also see writer Domenic Maltempi's blog
|MAIN PAGE||ARTICLES||STAFF/FAVORITE MUSIC||LINKS|