Revelators Sound System

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Revelators Review

by Thom Jurek

Revelators Sound System is an instrumental musical project by Hiss Golden Messenger's M.C. Taylor and the Spacebomb House Band's Cameron Ralston. Conceived and recorded across 2020 and 2021 at Taylor's North Carolina studio and at Spacebomb's Virginia rehearsal and recording space, it consists of four tracks spread over 34 minutes, and the music crisscrosses spiritual jazz, dub, spidery funk, ambient music, and more. Among the duo's 12 collaborators are clarinetist Stuart Bogie, tenor saxophonists JC Kuhl (who doubles on bass clarinet) and Drew Sayers, drummers Pinson Chanselle, Philo Tsoungui, and J.T. Bates, keyboardists/pianists Daniel Clarke and Devonne Harris, pedal steel guitarist Rich Hinman, and percussionists Brian Jones and Reggie Pace. Revelators employs hypnotic modal grooves inspired by '70s-era spiritual jazz -- particularly the contemplative atmospheres of Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, and Marion Brown -- as they meet mutant, spacy, layered funk in four lengthy instrumental jams.

Opener "Grieving" emerges with a martial snare, a moaning tenor sax, and ghostly piano chords. The first few minutes recall Brown's November Cotton Flower in its studied warmth and modal melody. A rumbling clarinet enters alongside Ralston's thrumming bassline and Taylor's chunky guitar chords. The saxophone moves afield and begins wailing as piano, Rhodes, and clarinet vie for dominance, entwining modal jazz and funk. "Collected Water" is a spectral ballad arranged as an extended intro. Bluesy saxophone and reverbed acoustic piano drop layers of cascading notes framed by Ralston's wayward bassline. Clarinet haltingly joins the tenor as organic percussion hovers in the frame. "Bury the Bell" is rich in dubwise effects beginning with breathing chords from Taylor's guitar as clarinet, shimmering organ, Mellotron strings, and pedal steel dig into Alice Coltrane's modal fakebook and emerge with droning, blissful, circular, Eastern-tinged inspiration. The seemingly breathing strings deliver the amorphous theme as clarinet, saxes, guitars, and textured keyboard sounds emerge from the ether. Closer and first single "George the Revelator" commences with rolling, breaking snare, funky bass and guitar lines, simmering organ and clarinet, and a gauzy sax and clarinet trading lines. Sophisticated soul à la Allen Toussaint or the Meters crisscrosss in the foreground as a looped snare and tom-tom shuffles meet a braying sax line atop a dubwise rhythm section. Moody, steamy, and shuffling, its lithe nocturnal funk groove intersect with keys, reeds, and winds.

While Revelators doesn't sound anything like other projects from these men, it doesn't sound completely alien, either. They remain in the same aesthetic ball park. The musical ambition on display in this loose, warm, provocative set remains close to spiritual jazz roots, wandering ethereal blues, and minimal funk. On a side note, ten-percent of the record's proceeds will benefit Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp.

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