Album: Revelators Sound System – Revelators review

by Craig Howieson

Free form experimentalism, and a kaleidoscopic voyage through genres that captures the heart

When I interviewed MC Taylor about Hiss Golden Messengers 2021 record, Quietly Blowing Ithe also alluded to a ‘bunch of other music’ he had been making during the same prolific period. One such project he singled out – referred to only as Revelators – was, in his words, a ‘really intense, aggressive, at times, freak out into real quiet passages’ – and something he felt, in conjunction with Quietly Bowing It, summed up his pandemic experience and the parallel disintegration of a middle ground in the United States.   

Now almost a year to the day from the release of Quietly Blowing It, the details of this other project have been fleshed out somewhat. We now know its full name to be Revelators Sound System, and that it is a collaboration between both Taylor and Spacebomb’s Cameron Ralston. Composed of four entirely instrumental tracks, the duo’s album (Revelators) is a tripped out, kaleidoscopic trail through roots, jazz, funk and free form experimentalism. 

On first listen, the reckless abandon of duelling drum kits and frenetic funk bass lines of opener, Grieving, sounds like two friends cutting loose. And while there may be an element of that in play, a shuffle close to the speakers reveals that this is a protest song, pissed off, defiant and raw. The songs that sit at the records centre, Collected Water and Bury The Bell, are initially noticeable for their absence or restrained use of drums. Subtle and beautiful improvisations on piano, woodwind and sax, and psychedelic drones provide a backdrop for meditation. Not meditation in the traditional sense, but a concentrated focus on what to do with the anger felt at the things you cannot control, and how to move forward from loss, whether that is the loss of love, an ideal or a physical and emotional connection.

The final track on the record, George The Revelator, was, as the group state, ‘initially composed on May 26th 2020, the day after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, MN, and evolved into its final form in the months that followed.’ As the drums return to the forefront, so too does a sense of urgency as Ralston’s probing bass scours broken ground for some sure footing.

Revelators is an impressive display of musicianship. However, it goes beyond an exercise in making technical ability sound pleasing to the ear. Taylor and Ralston have given these songs a human heart, and made the at times avant-garde accessible. It is a record for everyone – regardless of your preferred genre – because it is a record about spirit. Showing that in this life we can all get crushed and feel a fury at the world. But we also all have the ability to mend and build again.

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