The debut album by quartet Rev Magnetic buzzes with light-headed glee. Versus Universe follows in the grand tradition of symphonic psych pop bands like Mercury Rev, Polyphonic Spree, the Flaming Lips, and to some degree Spiritualized. There’s a mixture of modern electronics with the hallucinogenic sweetness of acid-burnt pop. Rev Magnetic is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and author Luke Sutherland(Mogwai collaborator, Long Fin Killie, Bows, Music A.M. Jomi Massage.) Sutherland, along with help from Audrey Bizouerne, Sam Leighton, and Gregor Emond, have created a whole world in Versus Universe.
The album tells the story of a middle-aged woman looking back on her life and how she coped with the lack of love from her parents growing up. Drugs and music played a big role in filling that void, and Rev Magnetic take great pride in coloring this musical story with the brightest colors they could find. The results are a stunning debut, filled with sensory overload and a kind of buzzing pop music that feels almost futuristic.
While the narrative here is important, it’s not essential to enjoy this album. The “la-las” and synthetic symphony that accompanies them in album opener “Versus Universe” somehow elicits both joy and sorrow. With the vocals of Audrey Bizouerne joining Sutherland the song takes on a very Medicine vibe. This track sounds like it could’ve lived nicely on the California noise pop band’s comeback album To The Happy Few. There’s enough modern production touches to give the song a pop radio feel. “At The Mercy Of Fabulous Thoughts” feels as if its sonically about to bust at the seams. Pure pop confection that fizzes like a mouth full of Pop Rocks. “Sunny Windy Winter Morning(Rainbows Spanning the Valley)” has an almost shoegaze quality to it as ambient notes hang in the air. Autotuned vocals gives the song a modern twist.
Elsewhere, “Woodland Sorority Carwash” has an almost hip hop feel. It’s almost like some futuristic Sufjan Stevens track at times with the mixture of modern production and strings intermingling. “Gloaming” sounds like a robotic chorus singing over a fuzz face guitar tone. “Palaces” closes out the album on a intimate note. The slick production dissipates and what is left is an organic coming together of guitar, chorus, and handclaps. It’s a gorgeous way to say goodbye to our protagonist, and to Rev Magnetic.
Versus Universe is a stunning debut album. Luke Sutherland has built a musical world we can step in and walk around. Both his storytelling and songwriting come together beautifully here, overwhelming the senses with buzzing pop melodies and an engaging narrative.
Versus Universe is out May 10th on Rock Action.