Sadsters unite over blown speakers

Pub date July 23, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

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Who leaves a perfectly good acoustic guitar in the street? Hard to say, but Kevin DeBroux, the fellow behind the elusive downercore of Pink Reason, found one on the sidewalk during his first week living in New York City, where he spoke from by phone earlier this month: "I picked it up and thought, ‘Nobody leaves their guitar on the street like this!’<0x2009>" The forlorn instrument quickly joined the modest guitarsenal with which DeBroux realizes his dirgy, psychedelic visions, ranging from slow-as-folk to blisteringly quick workouts, onto 4- and 8-track cassette machines.

DeBroux’s origins lie in the Brett Favre–frenzied town of Green Bay, Wis., but he also lived in Kurgan, Siberia, as a teenager from 1992 to ’93, where he tuned in to Russian punk bands like Grazhdanskaya Oborona, that, along with the sounds of ’80s American hardcore, had a major bearing on the shape of his eventual band’s bummer buzz. Pink Reason started simply enough after several prior bands, including Hatefuck. "I ended up driving back to Green Bay one night when there was this huge snowstorm, so I stayed with my friend Shaun [Handlen] and we started Pink Reason," DeBroux said. Handlen eventually moved to China, and Pink Reason has since consisted of DeBroux and whatever musicians, instruments, and recording resources are within reach.

His shape-shifting folkstuff was a shade too difficult for Wisconsin. For several years, he released only CD-Rs and had trouble being taken seriously as a musician in his home state. "It was kind of thought of as a joke," he said. "We played shows, but it was sporadic because nobody wanted to book us." When DeBroux sent a copy of his self-released 2006 seven-inch "Throw It Away" to the Siltbreeze Records–associated Siltblog for review, however, excited non-Cheesehead ears quickly got hip to his sensibilities. About a month later he was contacted by Tom Lax, Siltbreeze proprietor, with an offer to put out an album.

That record was last year’s Cleaning the Mirror, a six-song LP of ghostly, depressed low-fi folk moans and mysterious tones: it’s hard to tell whether the high-pitched twinkle that accompanies his exclamation of "It’s all over now!" consists of birds in an arboretum, a ringing phone, or a bizarrely contorted guitar passage. DeBroux put together his 2006-07 releases using older material from the aforementioned CD-Rs, but this year’s singles include new recordings — the flip to "Winona" (Woodsist) and both sides of "Borrowed Time" (Fashionable Idiots) are fresh cuts.

Pink Reason’s continual flux in lineup and style is one of DeBroux’s biggest live selling points: "You can take a song and change it to the point that the audience doesn’t even realize it’s the song that you’re doing," he noted. Still, it’s hard to tell that new single "Borrowed Time" is from the same guy who made Cleaning the Mirror: where that record was slow, stark and drawn-out, "Borrowed Time" is blistering, muddled pop running slightly more than a minute.

Garage-punk aficionados’ ears have lately turned toward Pink Reason and other Midwestern speaker-blown pop bands like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit, to whose Columbus, Ohio, ‘hood DeBroux moved for a year after a grand night of acid-dropping. He served a tour-long gig as bass player for Psychedelic Horseshit, and now plans an Australian winter tour with Clockcleaner, as well as the release of a split with Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones and a new LP. Nonetheless, sadsters needn’t worry about all these new friendships, or his description of the new record as "more upbeat": the subterranean, inward-gazing murk will surely assume a form as compelling as those it’s assumed so far. *


Sat/26, 9:30 p.m., $6

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1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923