Rev Magnetic: Versus Universe (Rock Action)

This may be the debut album from Glasgow-based four-piece Rev Magnetic but they’re novitiate in name only, formed as they are around author, musician and long-time Mogwai collaborator Luke Sutherland. Helpmates here are drummer Sam Leighton, guitarist Gregor Emond (who played with Sutherland in long-forgotten group Hynd) and, adding a Franco-Scottish dimension, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Audrey Bizouerne of Gift Horse.

A concept album based around the recollections and life story of a Zairean girl whose parents disappeared while taking part in that country’s 1970s space programme – yes, there was such a thing – Sutherland’s half-whispered vocals dominate, though he’s at his best when duetting with Bizouerne, as on the title track. In terms of the elliptical storytelling, it’s all him though: loss, regret and wistful reminiscing are the over-riding flavours, and in the inclusion of spoken word sections there’s a nod to the third strand of Sutherland’s artistic practice, namely theatre.

While musically Versus Universe is stylistically constant it still manages to encompass a pleasing variety of influences and techniques. There’s something of Young Fathers’ wonky balladry and wistful choral interludes on Palaces and Sunny Winter Windy Morning, while auto-tune and skittering, off-kilter beats turn Schoenberg In America into an essay in down-beat electronica. Other songs are punctuated by white noise-y dissonance – courtesy of Sutherland’s violin, perhaps? – or what in another context might be referred to as “riffage”. A bold and typically affecting new venture from one of Scottish music’s unsung stars.