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Rev Magnetic
Versus Universe Jamie Chambers , May 27th, 2019 10:16

The debut album by Rev Magnetic is a dynamic, ecstatic cacophony, finds Jamie Chambers

Rev Magnetic’s Versus Universe – the latest offering from reclusive, Scottish-based polymath Luke Sutherland – demands you put your day on hold and drown in its ecstatic cacophony; equal parts unruly and pristine, delicate and deafening, Rev Magnetic's debut LP veers dizzyingly from hushed tones to towering walls-of-sound, frequently at a moment’s notice.

Whilst Sutherland may be best known to many through regular cameos with Mogwai, he has been quietly treading his own singular narrative over the past three decades. From Long Fin Killie's whispered art-rock, to Bows' blissful trip-hop, to Music AM's erudite glitch-pop, Sutherland’s shape-shifting nous and immaculate taste make it somewhat baffling we aren’t shouting about him more often. Rev Magnetic's Versus Universe, loosely telling the story of a Congolese woman whose parents disappeared in space, is Sutherland’s first new music in thirteen years, and it is loud: a maximalist, stylistically-kaleidoscopic shoegaze album, leavened with trap hi-hats, 808s, vocoder, found sound, violins and trumpets.

Sutherland has spoken of his admiration for The Avalanche’s Since I Left You, and Rev Magnetic’s debut similarly spins the dial between stations, modulating quixotically between styles and textures to conjure a dense nostalgia; a vast, tangled mass of memory. Unlike Since I Left You, however, you’d be hard pushed to call Versus Universe a party album. Whilst it has its spritely, idyllic moments, the idea of sticking it on in the background is laughable; it simply asks too much of you. Sutherland’s vocals frequently have an almost unbearable vulnerability and intimacy: like Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu, he often sounds as if he's leaning on your shoulder, whispering in your ear. Around him gather squalls of orchestration, barrages of sound that at first can seem chaotic, yet on closer inspection are peppered with detail, hemmed with a fine sense of discipline. Most thrilling of all, perhaps, are the album’s dynamics: songs like ‘At the Mercy of Fabulous Thoughts’ erupt suddenly to reveal an even deeper bass, even bigger drums, an even headier high.

The sheer weight of emotion and attention Versus Universe demands means it’s unlikely to be for everyone. Those wishing to maintain an unruffled chill are best remaining at less rarefied altitudes. Yet, if you’re willing to close the door and allow it your full attention, Versus Universe may give you everything.