Review Summary: Cleaning the Mirror is one of the best records of the past several years and with plenty of good reasoning.
Harbouring an intense amount of personal problems, Kevin DeBroux, under the alias Pink Reason, recorded and released his debut record on the brilliant Siltbreeze label. The phrase ‘robitussin blues’ has been used by DeBroux himself to describe Pink Reason’s music and certainly the man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to such matters. After moving to Russia as a youngster, DeBroux was exposed to drugs and vodka from a very young age. Becoming weary of the life he was leading, he returned to America by himself at age fifteen and lived with drug addicts, pimps and other strange sorts. Kevin turned to guitar to cure his woes and eventually created Pink Reason with its ever rotating cast of members. Initially the band preferred songs that would make the recording tape decay into cinder ash with overpeaking garage sounds to fill the sound space with. However, as time went on, the songwriting became stronger and thus eventually making the sound quieter as to expose all the intricate nuances of DeBroux’s writing.
‘Cleaning the Mirror’ was certainly Pink Reason’s big break and most potentially their chance to shine to the underground music scene. Siltbreeze has made a name for itself since its inception; bands such as The Dead C, Charalambides, Harry Pussy and the Shadow Ring have become staples in the obsessive music collector’s collection. They are also a great source for some of the most innovative, creative bands appearing today such as Eat Skull, Teenage Panzerkorps, Puffy Areolas, U.S. Girls, Naked on the Vague and Times New Viking; some of these acts have went on to do much grander things but the very principle of Siltbreeze giving them their first foot into the door of the underground is an important one. ‘Cleaning the Mirror’ employs a minimal number of instruments: acoustic guitar (maybe in tune, maybe not), small percussion parts, a keyboard or two and a banjo that’s featured in the curtain song ‘Up the Sleeve’. These songs are the reflection of Kevin DeBroux’s complete inner being. It is a pent up, cathartic release for someone who has spent all of their life just trying to survive. Listening to these songs is an easy indication that the alias Pink Reason is the creator’s life and without the particular splurge of emotions revealed throughout, it is suggested that this person may not have continued to live without his freedom to express and create. As is painfully obvious by now, the songs on here are intensely personal and are a read-through diary of the musicians present.
The production here, though not barren by overpeaking distortion like previous extorts, is very bare and perhaps too bare for the easy eared. Recorded to what I presume is a 4 track tape recorder, the background of these compositions are filled with warm hisses and mixing so dense that some instruments are hard to make out individually. Though this will detract from people’s enjoyment from the album, it only serves to make the album more personal to the listener. It’s almost as if the musician is playing these songs in front of you with a dedication to yourself before each song starts. DeBroux is a relatable man, and though not everyone has lived in Russia with drug users and pimps, his songs break down the essence of human existence to which we all can relate. The opening track ‘Goodbye’ is a more droning offering; there are no hooks or clear melodies but alas it is a song that invokes many feelings and is sung and played with such passion that it is difficult not to be taken in by it. ‘Mother***er’, the second song on the record, is somewhat more conventional in it’s execution but certainly not a watering down of quality. The lyrics seem to deal with a love that has experienced trauma time and time again, however, my interpretation of it is very elementary and there surely is more ambiguity to the song’s content. ‘Storming Heaven’ may be the only dud on the record… it is a listenable track and certainly has some interesting textures and subtleties but sadly is not of higher excellence like the rest. I could probably spend the whole day describing the six tracks on offer here and how the thirty five minute runtime of the record are just brilliance through and through but that would be redundant and boring. As an end note, the strongest song here is the last one, ‘Up the Sleeve’. An excursion of banjo, acoustic guitar and drums later on, the track serves as a post-apocalyptic look at the sky. The general aura suggests that the end is near and I would be convinced that this was a suicide note if it weren’t for Pink Reason’s subsequent appearances. It is a bittersweet way to end ‘Cleaning the Mirror’ and an inclusion that should be noted more often.
In a way this record’s title really does sum it up. Kevin DeBroux and his helpers have cleaned the dust and dirt off of the reflection of their person and left us with a time capsule of events past. It is not perfect but it doesn’t have to be, the enjoyment from this album is dependent upon how well the listener connects to it. I, for one, almost feel like these are my