Coyote Gospels is available from:
Old Graves– 9.6/10
Reaper Man– 9.4
A Message For You– 9.5
Mary Says– 9.5
Satan, Hear My Song– 9.6
Drinking With Jesus– 9.7
Black Sun Rising– 9.5
Resurrection Day– 9.7
Deeper Down– 9.4
God Culture– 9.9
Singing The Blues– 9.7
God Don’t Love Us (Like The Devil Does)– 9.6
Drinking With Jesus, Resurrection Day, God Culture, Singing The Blues, Apocalypso
11th August, 2014
ALL HYMNS WRITTEN AND COMMITTED TO TAPE BY:
THE ESTEEMED REVEREND MOON DURING WHISKEY & OPIUM INDUCED PROPHETIC VISIONS
(BETWEEN THE YEARS 1994 & 2014- AS THE SPIRIT MOVED HIM)
Experimental, Avant-Garde, Bluegrass, Psychedelia, Folk, Acoustic, Punk-Blues
Instilling the genius and emphatic leadership of early-career Dylan, Reverend Moon is a startling voice in music. Having taken 20 years to complete; Coyote Gospels offers religious themes, twisted streets, animal rulership and distorted dreams- I dare you to find a more immediate and emphatic album in today’s music.
WHEN reviewing Australian Christian-Rock/Funk band The Updraft Imperative recently…
it seemed like there was a cartoon angel sitting on my shoulder. Guiding me to the lighter and more ecumenical side of life, I found myself becoming more enlightened and open- when reviewing their music. Not quite potent enough to convert my atheistic mind, I did at least gain some insight and wisdom; became fonder of Christian-Rock- more fascinated by Funk and hopelessly positive music. The band is gaining in stature; getting gigs and interviews through the U.K. and Australia- they are a name to watch carefully. That experience made me feel purer and more cleansed as a human being- today the cartoon devil sits on my right-hand shoulder. Waving away any spiritual and divine intervention, the pitchfork and studded hoof has gripped into my back- music with a darker flaming (inferno) heart has come to play. Before I unveil my featured act, I want to bring up one particular topic: the shadowy and more frightening side of music. In the current scene there is plenty of enticing and sweetly-uttered music; a number of acts that tread the lighter side of the street- ample music to uplift the heart and soothe fevered brows. Aside from Rock, Indie and Grunge bands, there is little of the flip side: sounds that have one eye in the gutter and one on a bottle of whiskey- something smoky and utterly compelling. This is especially true of genres like Folk and Bluegrass. Folk is- during 2014 at least- more synonymous with ethereal and romanticised movements- music that aims to entice rather than envelop. It is understandable that musicians- working in this genre- choose this path- if you frighten away your listeners, then it is pretty hard to come back. It is not to say that being unique and daring means dangerous and threatening- those that expand their ambitions (and sprinkle ashes into the melting pot) will always gain greatest plaudit. If you look at living legends such as Tom Waits: here is the example of a musician who offers cigarette-ravaged, whiskey-soaked growl- his enraptured and blitzkrieg burr has scored some of the most evocative and fascinated songs of all time. Wrapped up in that unmistakable and overpowering voice; tracks that proffer back alley losers, twisted lovers and corrupt governments reign: the U.S. master is adept at weaving phenomenal lyrics with full and strange compositions- backed by his ravaged and inflamed voice. There is little heretic and atheistic rebellion in Waits’ work: for the most part, he is the pastor of truth and knowledge- keen to guide disillusioned and confused voices towards a very comforting light. His messages may sound stark and foreboding- at times- but that is what great music should do- grab you by the scruff and makes you consider the world at large. Reverend Moon is hardly the voice of the Antichrist; nor is he the embodiment of Lucifer himself- not a twisted idol keen to push satanic themes and a proclivity-fuelled lifestyle. Mixing in religion and God; looking at faith and understanding, his music has an edge and sound that is hard to top- he mingles seedier and drunken scenes with pure reflection and consideration. Before I expand on my motives, I will introduce my featured act:
“REVEREND MOON is Jakob Rehlinger of Toronto-based psychedelic space-rock band Moonwood and founder of the Arachnidiscs Recordings label. Over the past 20 years the Reverend has been slowly working on Coyote Gospels, an album of 13 songs of ersatz-praise and upside-down faith. The song cycle was born in the manger of university poetry workshops beginning in 1994. It grew into an awkward adolescence at the dawn of the millennium when Rehlinger suffered a nervous breakdown and was paid for his trouble in what he called several “dark prophecies” in the form of visions. These hallucinatory cosmic messages from beyond are recounted in the songs “A Message for You”, “Black Sun Rising” and “Old Graves” — wherein animals reclaim the Earth from humans. Since 2007 Rehlinger has been polishing these heretical-hymns and pseudo-psalms over several demo versions before setting out to record them in earnest beginning in 2012.”
It is not surprising that I find myself back in Canada: the country has been throwing some of music’s finest examples my way. Distinct and more ambitious than their U.S. neighbours, the nation is a veritable hotbed for creative wonder and diversity- from Punk-Rock and Folk, my mind has been nurtured by some phenomenal musicians. Reverend Moon’s compelling and made-for-the-big-screen background has a cinematic edge; an ember of classic literature- he seems like a Beat Generation hero making his way into music. With a personality and struggle few can comprehend or compete with; Rehlinger’s alter-ego is the sound of a vibrant and daring artist- providing a sound that is guaranteed to compel the mind. I shall move on in due course, yet need to mention a couple of different topics. Looking at Reverend Moon’s list of influences- I shall expand more on this with appropriate investigation- my eyes and mind were spiked. Drawing in the likes of Waits and Bob Dylan, you know- before you hear a note- a comparative husky and stirring voice will be elicited- lyrics that have intelligence and poetic potency; compositions with plenty of wonder; music that differs from the modern-day norm. Having been- over the last few weeks- involved with reviewing a lot of Indie, Folk and Pop bands- that have their very own styles- it is great to discover a North American treasure- a musician that draws in elements of ’60s and ’70s masters- with a very modern edge. Able to appeal and entrance multiple genres (and clans of fans), his songs look at mystical and spiritual realm; odd scenes and surreal dreams; incarnations and reincarnations- an evolutionary hegemony that sees animals taking over the world. Many may see these subjects akin to oddball antics- too detached and quirky to appeal to anyone- but the songbooks are filled with storybook wonder; fascinating and vivid scenes- new and distinct projections that are what the music world demands. If you look back at artists such as Captain Beefheart- for anyone under 40, take a look back at his back catalogue- you cannot deny how compelling and phenomenal his fever-dream and hazy psychedelia (captured your imagination)- with a voice as hypnotic as his, he is one of the most underrated acts of all-time. Music has too much conservatism and predictability: new acts do not stray too far from commercial ambitions- tending to ensure their records do not cause too much alienation. It is a real shame that acts such as Reverend Moon- theoretically; he is still making his mark- are relegated to niche and clandestine avenues- seen as alternative and unable to penetrate the mainstream. His distillation and cocktail mix of harsh life experience and spirituality (and religion) has been expounded and mastered by some of music’s most assured acts: from Dylan to (Leonard) Cohen; Neil Young to Beefheart; modern-day geniuses like Laura Marling- why are there so few current acts pushing the boundaries? Writing about love and personal relations is all admirable- it is the common experience everyone can relate to- introducing something more byzantine and reverent can go a long way- it makes songs richer, more fascinating and inspiring. Keen to differentiate himself from the musical masses; instill the same kind of wonder (the legends of old possessed)- Coyote Gospels is as intriguing and emotive as its title suggests.
Being the debut album from Reverend Moon, it is difficult to give an impression regarding development- how the artist has progressed over the years. The best thing to do is to compare- Coyote Gospels– with its author’s (Rehlinger) other projects. Being a member of groups Moonwood and Babel, the Canadian is one of the busiest and most diverse musicians in the country. Hexperience is Moonwood”s experimental highpoint- an album of improvisations and Krautrock cuts. Playing like a blissful acid trip, the album sees Captain Beefheart’s influence come in. Strange, beautiful and entrancing, the album is the most updated incarnation of the band- the peak of their combined powers. With compositions that have Prog.-Rock elements, it is a record that will appeal to fans of the genres- its fascinating sounds and collages will appeal to everyone. Filled with plenty of stunning moments, it is a break away from Reverend Moon’s Bluegrass/Folk offerings. Before then, Moonwood produced albums such as Trans Wasteland Express. This album is fuzzier and more ragged: containing red-hot Blues-Rock jams, it is less experimental; more concise and straightforward. None of the fascination and unique personality is lost. Jim’s Super Bee is a Hendrix-esque distorted mandate: echoing guitars and wailing notes marry Pink Floyd and Muse- it is a head-spinning jam that is impossible to shake. Dave’s Arrow is a determined and ragged swagger- fizzing and popping guitars make it a stand-out cut. Lizard Wizard has a different skin: more crawling and strange; the song is moody and haunted; dark and dangerous- showcasing another side to the band. Ghost Aberrations saw Jazz-infused and twisted horns come into songs like Freezone. With a mix of Charles Mingus and Kid A-era Radiohead, it (Freezone) is a dreamy and dizzying assault. The band stick in psychedelic and experimental territory; the album is more Jazz and Funk-inspired- Aubade is gentler and builds up; acoustic elements add serenity and haunt. The far-off vocals put me in mind of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon tenure- that trippy and sleep brilliance radiates through. One earlier album is Forest Ghosts. Giving early impressions into Rehlinger’s mind, it is an experimental gem. Dreamsnatchers is as evocative and delirious as the title suggests: sound samples and effects give the impression of disturbed sleep and bizarre dreams- the relentless force and eeriness get inside of your head and muddle your senses. No Past, No Future has a spectral and mordant sound: wailing and echoing cries see ghosts lurk in the woods- the creatures call and cry out for mercy. Reminding me of Yma Sumac- and her Voice of the Xtabay work- it fuses World, Mambo and Exotica threads. Moonwood is an avenue (Rehlinger can explore his experimental and far-out visions): Reverend Moon is more traditional and composed- Coyote Gospels showcases the same strong and unique vocals; the compositions vary greatly. Showcasing what a talent he is, you would not think that the same man was responsible for such a wide range of music. Like Jack White, Rehlinger is not contended to be in two acts- his third incarnation is as part of Babel. Similar to Moonwood, the band are concerned with Prog. and Experimental genres: this is emphasised in Rillingen‘s luster. Pink Floyd-esque guitars marry all shades of mood and thoughts: a heady and intoxicating blend of sound snatches, it is an epic work- one that tells so much with instruments alone. Earlier disc Zahlreiche sees the Hammerschlag series throw up huge intrigue. Hammerschalg.01 is dark and feline; creeping and contracting, it teases and hypntoises- injecting the sound of someone knocking on a door (it is a tense and shadowy work). Hammerschalg.03 recounts Asian avenues: samurai movie darkness showcases a song that could have featured in the Kill Bill trilogy- it is a track Tarantino would snap up. Perhaps with its eyes in horror films, it is dangerous and menacing; with softer moments it also provides some tenderness as well. Alphabeta is a more ‘traditional’ album in a sense: the song titles are less byzantine and weird; the compositions more Psychedelic and Blues-Rock- the sense of oddity and fascination is as high as ever. Caged is light and flowing; colourful and rushing- endlessly rushing, it has elements of Bjork’s happy and delirious Homogenic period. Dead is fuzzed and demented; robotic and rampaging- there is feedback of epic proportions. Bee is a continuous hum: an elongated and held note follows from demonised and demonically fast riffage- it is a track that has peculiarity and charm in equal measures. Given what Rehlinger has- and is still- created over the years, Coyote Gospels sees a different side to him. In a way, the album’s lyrics would fit perfectly in his other work: that same identity and mix of ethereal, spiritual and odd linger in his work. His voice seems more emotional and striking- in his current work- the compositions are more restrained but less divisive- more likely to draw in a larger number of supporters and listeners. Showcasing a huge songwriting talent, there is a definite sense of development: the work on his latest offering is as result of fastidious and impassioned hard work- it is more concrete, deep and compelling than anything he has ever created- the finest and stronger album he has produced.
When looking at similar acts, there are a few names that I can introduce. Beck may seem like a peculiar first port of call. The maverick experimentalist is renowned for his shifting sounds; that sense of pioneering spirit and restless innovation- the mutation from albums like Odelay and Morning Phase is incredible. Rehlinger’s creative brain is never contented to stick with one theme or sonic idea: like Beck, the Canadian understands the importance of mixing sounds and ideas. Perhaps more befitting of his side projects, the same glorious mixture of moods and scenes come to play. Even more experimental and psychedelic than Beck, Rehlinger’s music sees odd and unexpected sounds unite in a glorious and multifarious way- tapestries that are deep and filled with odd avenues. Part of Led Zeppelin‘s album Led Zeppelin III can be seen- within Coyote Gospels. When you look at that album’s most stirring and rousing Acoustic-Blues themes, you can see a bit of that (in Reverend Moon). Able to unveil stomp and feet-tapping jams, Coyote Gospels has plenty of early-’70s glory: you could imagine Plant and Page loving Reverend Moon. Not as overly bombastic as the legends of Rock, Coyote Gospel does contain that Zeppelin-esque mingling of Bluegrass, Folk, Acoustic and anthemic punch. Another- perhaps minor influence- I can incorporate is Neil Young. The fellow Canadian is a rightful legend: one of the most astute, impressive and staggering songwriters ever; his songs are as influential and mesmeric than any ever produced. I mention Young because of his Country sound. Reverend Moon reminds me of Young’s Harvest/Time Fades Away period. Although Time Fades Away is the representation of the zeitgeist of ’70s America, its mix of bad karma and electric attack. Like Dylan mutating- from acoustic guitar to electric- this album marked a sonic shift: the mingling of pessimistic coda and slice-of-life truths did not resonate with critics when released- it is an album that has gained acclaim and paen decades later. Coyote Gospels is equally bare and open- an album that is emotional and honest as anything out there. In the same way Young funnelled anger and rage into his palette; distanced himself from his early work- here, Rehlinger offers a sonic gem that is a step away from his Moonwood and Babel life. Continuing down the Country road, Johnny Cash is another name- that comes to my mind. Although Cash’s voice is deeper and more velvet (than Reverend Moon) his authoritative and spellbinding stomp can be seen (in Coyote Gospels). Cash’s works American IV: The Man Comes Around and America III: Solitary Man are his latter-day diamonds: mixing theological and religious messages (with introspective and heart-aching confessions), they are albums that demand deep investigation. Coyote Gospels has a comparable mixture of spiritual and ecumenical longing and consideration; personal confessions and reverence- that inimitable blend of direct and detached. Backed by tantilisingly dark and shadowy guitar chords, Cash’s black night oeuvres find themselves incarnated in Rehlinger’s current spirit. In so much as I am reminded of Nick Drake‘s Pink Moon regency- when listening to Coyote Gospels– you can find that same gentle and late night performance. Drake recorded his masterpiece over the course of a night: wracked and possessed by depression, it is a wonder it was recorded at all- the beauty and phenomenal songs that were offered are a remarkable achievement. Reverend Moon does not have that same anxious and deathly submission; the biggest comparisons come when the songs become lighter and more melodic- you can hear some of Drake’s expert finer-picking within Coyote‘s thirteen tracks. The Acoustic-cum-Folk beauty has made an impression on Reverend Moon: he blends that essence and strength in his album. One of the most obvious influences is Captain Beefheart. Having seen some of Beefheart’s lunatic and experimental brilliance (make its way into Moonwood and Babel’s cannon); Reverend Moon injects some into his debut album- the master’s early work has had an effect on him. If you look at Lick My Decals Off, Baby: that work is a refined and deep album; surreal wordplay, jagged rhythms and fervent imagination mandates that work- our Canadian hero incorporates some of the album’s stripes. Coyote Gospels has some bizarre and trippy moments; hugely imaginative and storybook themes- tied with some compelling and unexpected riffs, signature and compositions- you can hear a hint of the 1970 classic. With some of the eccentric prowess of (his finest work) Trout Mask Replica, Reverend Moon instills some of that Avant-Garde and Blues-Rock colour- there are comparisons one can make. Singalong moments, atonal melodies and jagged (and intricate) guitar parts mingle with detached complexity and disjointed surrealism. Reverend Moon’s album is less disjointed and random- his songs are more cohesive and flowing. He does instill that same adventurousness and passion: his surreal and unique poetry has elements of Trout Mask Replica’s unique and striking identity- fusing the same sort of considerations and themes. Tom Waits is an artist that has had a bearing on Reverend Moon. When songs look at God, the Devil and intoxication; you get lingers of Waits’ Mule Variations- back-streets Blues-Rock and Bluegrass ran riot in that album. Blood Money (released in 2002) sees religious imagery and tales come into play: God’s Away on Business looks at abandonment and the reliability (and truth) of religion. More elegant, refined and structured- than early work- the album’s dark and spiked tongue introduced warped characters and dialectic aphorisms- his wordplay and musical innovation reached unparalleled heights. Reverend Moon incorporates theatrical and unique stories into his work: evil and heart-aching miniatures; spiritual and poetic paens and caricatures spar with bleak, funny and unexpected contradictions- the same richness and diversity (in Blood Money) can be seen on Coyote Gospels. On Apocalypso (Coyote Gospels‘ closer) you get a real feeling of Bad As Me: that hard and pugnacious swagger; the biblical and crunching riffs; twisted and contorted sounds- you hear lingers of the title track, Satisfaction and Hell Broke Luce (sic.) here. I shall save the biggest influence for last: Bob Dylan. Rehlinger’s voice is unmistakably enforced by the U.S. legend. That same tone and sound resonates throughout: the aged and mature croon; that impassioned and distinct delivery- there is no copycatting; our hero presents his own version of events. The vocal and compositions are perhaps the most obvious comparisons- when it comes to lyrics, the two artists differ slightly. When Dylan became born-again, he explored his faith in Saved and Slow Train Coming. Whilst extolling the virtues of Christianity and God, they contained some of Dylan’s most assured and fascinating songs- the mix of religious and spiritual images was backed with deep and consistently brilliant compositions. The albums acted as exorcism, release and tribute: Dylan was renewed and inspired; keen to pay tribute to a new lease of life. Reverend Moon finds inspiration in dark visions and religious quarters: while less concerned with sermonising and protesting, it does share similarities with Dylan’s mid-career masterpiece. When Oh Mercy (released 1989) saw Dylan reconnecting with his past, critics were impressed by the arty and refined production- it was atmospheric without being unsympathetic. Reverend Moon connects with his youth, past indiscretions and harder times. Whereas the voice and compositions may put you in mind of Dylan, Coyote Gospels cannot be compared with any Dylan album too directly- in terms of themes and subject matter. It is best you judge the album on its own terms: Reverend Moon is very much his own artist, and someone who you cannot readily link to anyone else.
Old Grave begins life with springing and spiraling strings: teasing a tempting line of riparian notes, it is a spirited and upbeat start. The song looks at animals overthrowing the human population. Rehlinger’s Dylan-esque smokiness adds huge evocativeness and emotional weight to the song’s surreal and apocalyptic images. In the midst of a revolution and new order, the human population are being held down whilst they sleep; dogs and cats are pining them and physically dominating- the images one projects are quite vivid and strange, believe me. Creatures and animals are “coming down from the trees“; the animalisitc plague is infesting the towns and streets- teeth sharpened and eyes blank, there is nothing that can be done. A percussionary smash (tambourine) adds atmospheric punctuation; the endlessly swelling and persistent guitar contortion keeps the momentum flowing; the mood is edgy and urgent- enforcing the scary and foreboding forecasts. Terrified and anxious- of imminent death- our hero’s voice seems nervy and edgy: you can feel the walls closing in bit by bit. The raccoons and tree-dwellers unite with cats and dogs; balkanized against mankind, the animals first eat the “hoes and hobos“- feasting on their flesh, they go for the weakest and lowest- making their way across the street. As the rats join with the crows, the duel guitar lines- reminding me of Captain Beefheart’s most compelling compositions- increases the tension and palpable sense of destruction. Employing embers of Bob Dylan’s The Freewheelin‘- and nightmarish visions such as A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall– you are swept up in the bizarre and fascinting tale. Rabbits sit beneath shady trees; sharpening their teeths with “rusty screws” our man sings the blues- like the Titanic going down, there is nothing that can be done but play; just hope for a swift and merciful end. Judging by the engorged junkies and flesh-picked promiscuousness, there is no escape or logical end- the animals are teasing and tempting fate. Cougars ride the back of bears; the mountains are bare of their carnivorous dwellers. Our hero wants the asphalt stripped from the road and the children stuck “in a zoo“- whether representing animal enslavement or a safe haven, you feel that reality and logical fallacy has transposed things: luckily it is dreams that are being foretold- not a coming judgement day. With mouldy bones lying around; dogs “all dug from old graves“, it is a stunning and scintillating opening number- one of the most impressive starts to an album I have heard. A swaying and heel-kicking rouse brings Reaper Man into the frame. With the vocal less rushed and urgent as before, our hero takes his time and projects his words: early thoughts say “It’s not hard to read the signs/Written in neon lights.” Selling your cash for gold, prophesies are lighting up the sky- you get the feeling Reverend Moon is rallying against corporatism and modern-day consumerism; the way the world is transforming and mutating. Professing that “the end is nigh” there is the sense of a pastor preaching to the flock: warning them to renounce the proclivities of the street, the direction and passion in the vocal- and composition- cannot be denied. The reasons this is occurring; why things are unravelling is because of who you are (and where you have been)- our hero advises to clap your hands and “stomp your feet.” Howling and rapturous guitar parables interject doom-laden and end-of-the-world musings- no matter what happens, the morning will signal the apocalypse. Razor wire squalls underpin tales of Judas and Jesus; a “house in the sky” and having fun- biblical treachery and teachable moments are dispensed around a sonic whirlpool of suffocation. The bellicose chant gets stronger as the song nears its end- limbs are tumbling and our hero wants to fly; with the dawn light near, escape is on his mind- perhaps there will be no chance of survival. Ending with a psychedelic and rampaging guitar myriad, the song ends with an appropriately epic flourish- another prophecy-laden and haunting number has been unleashed. Seeking some type of cleansing and (brief) relief, A Message For You has a hopeful title. The sapling moments see lighter- but bouncy- guitar whip up a buoyant and dancing mood: our hero is determined to get his words across as potently as possible. With unmistakable embers of you-know-who enforcing the vocal delivery, you stand to attention- enraptured in that familiarity; impressed by Reverend Moon’s pressing and phenomenal sound. Not sure (if his subject will hear him), our hero has a message: not knowing what it means; it is perfectly clear. There is a sense of ambiguity and obliqueness early on: the anonymous and vague message can be blown in smoke signals; written down- its truth and clarity has not come to light. Whether a guiding light or an elemental truth, the ‘message’ seems a pertinent and relevant one- something that is backed by an atmospheric and energised backing composition. The determined and one-dimensional thought keeps pressing- “there’s only one word.” No one has heard this “joke” before; it is a byzantine and inscrutable mistress (you are keen to undress)- and see its true beauty revealed. Having not appeared on TV or radio, the mystery and fascination grows: in my mind, so many images came to the fore; perhaps a religious truth is being explored- our authour keeps his cards close to his chest. That taut and hypnotised composition expands past the half-way mark: introducing Bluegrass twang and Country kicks, it is rousing and swelling. Like Chinese whispers, the message is being passed around from person to person: more and more you believe that some ecumenical assignation or invocation is being represented- something clairvoyant or spiritual? Such a tantalising and curious song, each listener will have their own views and interpretations- only Reverend Moon know the real truth. Boinging and echoed acoustic strings mix with hand-claps; Johnny Cash-cum-Tom Waits scintillation and darkness presents itself- Mary Says boasts an intriguing and purposeful birth. Taking its mind into religious avenues- with vocals multi-tracked- we look at Mary and the baby Jesus- “everyone knows” that the baby is Joe’s. Attesting there is no God; they are trying to trick you into “playing nice.” The sense that by thinking someone is watching over you, makes you scared to act human or wrong- every movement and thought is carefully choreographed and planned. Mary has heard the prayers and praise; they have got it all wrong- the evocative and striking words get your mind working overtime. Transporting yourself into biblical scenes, the issue of reality and omnipresence is investigated: there is nobody upstairs “pulling the strings.” Few songs have trodden these themes with such an original and unexpected essence- Reverend Moon’s gift for words and story makes Mary Says a fascinating and compelling song. No one cares about the truth- that a higher order is controlling events- so “you might as well sing“- nobody is listening. A feeling of loneliness and uncertainty mixes with the nature of reality and religion. Mary is a meek and real figure: not a spiritual magician, she never turned water to wine; rose from the dead or amassed a vast kingdom- her life and situation is genuine and humble. There is a great modernity and relevance in the song. A lot of people have to struggle and deal with the limitations of life and reality: God is the antithesis of this; he is being praised without having to have endure hardship and pain. Our hero is keen to point out (that nobody is watching); you can dance and try to impress- all you are doing is projecting to an endless infinity; eternal nothingness- no spirit in the sky. From stories of God’s existence, we progress to Satan, Hear My Song. A light and gentle guitar introduction may act as a red herring- for those looking for a soothed and sensual Folk ballad may come away slightly short-changed. Subverting expectation and predictability, hints of Pink Moon Nick Drake come out. The song looks at issues (as proclivious and nonsensical) as fame and fortune. If you want to be famous, all you gotta do is “say his name“- call out and strike a deal with Nosferatu. Initial impressions lead me to believe our hero is rallying against fame-chasers and the desperately shallow- the lack of empathy in his voice certainty takes my mind that way. Morality, effort and purity are examined: our man has lived a good life- it is taking too long to get to heaven- and doesn’t think “I can make it old“- Satan will need to take his soul. The one-stop shop for the needy and tired, the dark prince is the confidante of weary souls and disaffected dreamers- any willing to forsake eternal happiness are welcomed forth. Past the 0:50 mark, the album’s most urgent and electrifying moment is elicited: a ragged and buzzing electric guitar swarm adds menace and power to the song- it fuzzes and rampages with psychedelic luster. Backed by stomping percussion, our hero’s voice entwines and contorts; layers are brought in to emphasise the sense of confusion, helplessness and compromise. Heaven is not worth the wait; there is no guarantee to be found- the sorry state of the world is always likely to cause people not to hold onto something so far-fetched. Our hero looks at the selfishness and ruination of modern youth: they steal from the future; raping the land of anything good or lasting, nothing will be left- when the meek inherit the earth. Looking at the digital age and the unconcerned public, everything is being squandered and digitalised- the good is being overlooked and a hollow and barren world is being left. Squelching and hornet guitars make the point emphatically: our hero is ready to end the strife; Satan can have his soul if he can make things better- perhaps he just wants out altogether. After parabonding with Satan, Drinking With Jesus seems to promise a flip-side. A similarly ebullient opening gets the song to life; our hero’s voice is more Country-fied and matured here- not meaning to brag or boast, he is friends with the holy ghost. Drinking his “wine-coloured blood” Satan cannot drag him down- he has Jesus backing him up. Our hero never cried when his parents died; he seems detached and unemotional- the suicidal background gives the song a haunting and disturbed twist. Making it look like a suicide, our man had a hand (in the death)- blithely unconcerned, he is untouchable. With an evil glint in his eyes, an eerie and crawling backing echo augments the terror and defiance- our hero is spiraling and damned be the consequences. Being thankful for what he has received, you sense the hero is speaking from the other side- maybe having got his comeuppance, he is reaping the rewards of eternal immunity. The epic story is the most evocative and detailed on the set: you follow the course of events and become fascinated by each development. After repenting sins and atoning, that wistful lack of concern gives the song a huge weight. When his parents were buried; the hounds of Hell released, the song’s hero was taken in- living a sheltered and disciplined life; punished and beaten in a strict and draconian school. With the central figure being found dead, our hero hit the road: unable to face the music, there is a dead girl in the trunk of his rusty car; “a lousy lay”, the wheels keep spinning- the untouchable and itinerant soul keeps pounding on. Packing the song with so many characters, scenes and twists, it is a stunning and brilliant track- a song that is an epic movie in itself. After dalliances with Jesus, Black Rising Sun cleans the slate: the uplifting and brief intro. spares no time in getting things underway. Taking us into his dreams’ landscapes, our hero saw “we’re all going to die.” In a rather bleak and frightening apparition, the mind once more errs towards apocalyptic themes. In this story, the “mother dies when the child is born“; child grows to be a man- “sells his seed and rapes the land.” With that black sun rising- a euphemism and metaphor for death and genocidal arrival- the disturbed and harsh landscape (of the song) gets inside of your brain. Ensuring that the song packs compositional clout- in addition to lyrical and vocal- a blood-rush coda snakes in: sparing no prisoners; Blues-infused and whiskey sour- a clattering chain gang rally, it is a striking sound. The portentous visions get through in under 2:30: after the epic nature of the previous number, it is a tight and focused track- that leaves you with plenty to think about. Resurrection Day perhaps offers no light and relief. On Easter, Jesus was laying “on his side“- we are back in the waters of biblical regard. Not keen to be resurrected, Jesus is lazily refusing- sullen and fatigued, there is another saviour “two doors down“- a charming and witty sentiment for sure. Wanting to pass the buck; bequeath his scars and responsibility, Jesus wants (the unnamed woman) to inherit the burden- the saviour is in a bad frame of mind. Keen to remonstrate; remind Jesus of the achievements gained- by the song’s subject- the exhausted messiah shows little interest- an exploding compositional burst ramps the song up. Jesus has moving on his mind: to destinations unknown, he wants to take in the world- almost ‘find himself’. With the highway ahead, the hirsute figure sees a world out there- cars, planes and modernity are all waiting to be seen. The crunching, catchy and stomping composition makes sure everything resonates and sticks: whether reinterpreting biblical passages or investigating modern-day responsibility and strife, it is a phenomenally fascinating number- showcasing Reverend Moon’s full potential. Deeper Down continues where the previous number left off: that insatiable and rousing kick welcomes the track in. Looking at rebirth and new life; the dying grass gives way to a “brand-new lawn.” With a distorted and grumbling backing vocal- injecting some Captain Beefheart-esque oddity- our hero looks at digging deeper down- to find something new- recycled and cliché jokes have all been told; all prayers have been exhausted- all plays have been played. There is a sense of weariness and exhaustion- everything new has been used and over-used; if you want to discover something rare and unique, you need to dig deep- the messages and lyrics can be applied to multiple situations. Perhaps musicians are not being ambitious enough; not breaking ground and making waves- if they open their mind and expand, then they can achieve clarity and uniqueness. Maybe human beings seem stifled and boring- if you want to make a change, you can do so. God Culture has a funky and intriguing opening- after some skipping strings, a low and echoed voice comes to narrate. Telling a story “2,000 years old“; the New Age girl met an older man- we all know what is being revealed. Not having a say (in what happens), the seed was planted in her soil- a witty and a little dirty, it is a stand-out thought. With a vocal that marries Beefheart’s legendary and dark croon with Johnny Cash’s velvet tones, you are hooked into proceedings. Unable to escape, Mary is trapped and confused: no immaculate conception, something darker and more violent is at heart- a seedy and unsanitary underbelly is being pulled apart. Avant-garde and crunching riffs give the song a dizzying and hypnotic feel- the track has psychedelic swathes that pulls your mind and brain in different directions. If what is in the Bible is true- the conception was immaculate; it was done right- then the truth is “some virgin’s getting raped, each and every night.” Keen to uncover the flaws in religion; uncover the plain truths and realities, the track highlights a religion that celebrates “predators and vultures.” Aside from discrimination, horrors and inequities (Christianity espouses), we are now through the Looking-Glass- Reverend Moon’s darkest fable is being told; the dark and determined voice is pouring out. Whether this is deliberate- using a different vocal sound to detach himself from the subject- or a character, you can feel the sense of hatred and anger come out- it puts me in mind of Tom Waits’ distinct and determined growl. Mixing Waits, Beefheart and Cash into a raging cauldron of judgement and hell; no one cares what happens behind closed doors- “boys will be boys” and girls will be “drunken whores.” Drinking with Jesus strikes you with its detail, length and story- God Culture overwhelms you with its brevity and effectiveness. Two contrasting sides of dark themes, I was staggered that any song could top Drinking’- it just did. Belching, groaning and drunkenly swaggering, the song is a psychotropic is an unforgettable and direct missile- it will be hard to lodge it from your consciousness. Well enmeshed into the final third, Singing The Blues arrives next- it is a lighter and unexpected turn. Our hero’s voice is relaxed and romantic: with a sweetness, he is backed by a gentle and swaying guitar. People have been signing the blues for years; since people been singing, “brothers been singing the blues“- sisters too. Stating that these people would rather be happy, it is said they don’t get to choose- the melody and vocal delivery is one of the most impressive and stirring so far. Letting his words gently sway; the song’s distinctly emotive resonance and projection makes the lyrics stand out. A subtle and tender number, our hero turns in his most emotive vocal. Looking at the father than uses all his crops; the young man “gunned down by the cops“- mothers have been singing the blues all these years. Haunting and still, you sit and let the words take you in- it is a stunning and spine-tingling song. When God Don’t Love Us (Like The Devil Does) arrives, you need a moment to clear your head- having witnessed so much; been initiated to some truly divine offerings, you wonder what could possibly come next. Deranged and pulverising beginnings give you no room for doubt- here is another kick-ass and urgent slice. Fuzzed, distorted and panicked, the compositions rushes and runs; Beefheart brilliance lingers- another song decrying the gift of God has arrived. He waits until we are in our graves- to speak to us; offer a home- when we die and are reduced to ashes; if God won’t take us “the Devil must.” After the plain-speaking and recidivism that lingered (in God Culture), our hero employs more scepticism and disillusioned truth- why would a loving God not protect us during life; only rewards us after death? The ecstatic and yelling compositional bursts add urgency and spike to events- there are a lot of people buried underground; you wonder whether they could possibly have transcended to Heaven? If God is not there- unwilling to embrace the departed- the only way is down: the Devil has a warm and fiery shelter. The message conveys a sense of harsh truth: we still have rape and war; pain and hunger- in spite of what you believe, these things go on without intervention or retribution. The reality is that “sex and drugs are all we got“- a religion with nothing but truth (and uplifting) and redemptive potential. The Devil provides contraband goodness; sexualised pleasures and temptation- all the richness and satisfaction one could hope for. Flip it against wars, terrorism, pillage and famine- are we making the right choice? Whether saying that faith- is at best- a zero-sum game; or that it is best to not pin your hopes on salvation- the song certainty wins you over. Leading us nicely into the finale, it is a tight, muscular and rebellious mandate- with a beating heart of heretical Rock ‘n’ Roll. Drawing in the most demonic and whiskey-inflamed moments of Tom Waits, the primal and terrifying Apocalypso arrives. The next door girl is introduced; with a myriad of images coming to play- foreskins, sex-smelling objects, toenails (and all manner of lasciviousness) the song has a staunch and unforgettable lust. That Beefheart-esuqe vocal- that synonymised God Culture– is the arbiter of downfall and disease; recklessly preaching about seedier avenues and twisted scenes. In this place, the TV screen’s static is a “perpetual motion machine“- the entranced and overwrought guitar wail gives the lyrics a distinct and alcoholic kick. In an Alice in Wonderland-esque delirium, the world is crumbling; the walls are flying- we are taken to San Francisco where a whore “warms the room“- the Beat Generation and beatnik hero pounds the sidewalk; ensconced by “Kamikaze moths” and the peculiar vibrancy of the surrounding. Whether the result of an acid trip; the psychedelic and Salvador Dali-esque portraits seem like the fevered last moments of the world- the apocalypse is nigh; destruction is close. Underground clubs, grunge and blind swagger are introduced (by that hypnotic and preacher voice)- with all the potency and darkness you could imagine; the howl of sex rolls with the rumble of beasts- what magic was created when they “split the atom“? The stream-of-consciousness outpouring look at city streets with “diamond dogs“; prophesying nut-jobs and roaring engines- mangers of straw and whores seem commonplace and quintessential. Religious proclivity and sexual twists conspire with crying men and broken souls; Mary’s breasts and God’s images are presented- trippy and distorted sights rampage. Country, Blues, Bluegrass and Psychedelia conspire in an epic and grandstanding finale- one of the most haunting and effecting songs you are likely to hear. In the final moments, an echoed and elongated vocal mixes with eerie calm; introducing lines from Singing The Blues, the crawled and slow-paced vocal is a wonderful and unexpected moment- you feel a sense of shiver as the song ends. After such a raw and visceral experience, you lose your breath- glad that you can reflect and escape the potency of proceedings.
It seems that every time an album arrives, the game is stepped up: something unbeatable comes along- new music is breeding some phenomenal and amazing works. Reverend Moon has released one of the most immediate and essential albums of this year- a few of the numbers are among the finest I have heard all year. Some of the numbers may put you in mind of Dylan; that is no bad thing- there is no intention to mimic or overthrow the master. What Coyote Gospels does is to instill some of Dylan’s particular moments- the anger and apocalypse of his early work; his Christianity works towards the ’80s; some of his latter-day wonder- around songs that cover a spectrum of subjects- religious truths, Satan and God; strange and weird dreams; dangerous street scenes etc. With the exception of a couple of songs (Drinking with Jesus and Apocalypso particularly) the numbers are short and concise- they get to the point and say their piece with regard for economy and brevity. The longer tracks are some of the best- Drinking With Jesus is an insanely gripping and memorable story; something destined for the big screen- a song you will be quoting endlessly. Looking at murderous avenues and disreputable evil, it grips you and haunts your soul- how many other tracks can do that? Apocalypso is the album’s intense and mesmeric swan-song: haunting and dark vocals; phenomenal and vivid scenes; beautiful unpredictability and diversions- it is the distillation of all of the album’s themes and sounds. Not everything here is heretical and anti-religion: there is positivity and spirituality to be found; the messages rally against the pitfalls and realities of Christian teachings- pointing out the shortfalls and ironies. The songs are all original and distinctly unique: no other act has presented 13 songs that sounds and play like this- I sure as hell hope that another album is coming. Like his countryman legends Neil Young and Leonard Cohen; Reverend Moon mixes an evocative and stirring voice with intelligent and witty songs- that explore love, life and religion. The early numbers- that look at animal uprising and overthrowing- are quirky and stunningly strange; unlike anything I have heard, they are filled with wonderful images. When proceedings look at death, religion and questioning; the album becomes profound and investigative- some of the most pertinent and stand-out lyrics are elicited. When that undeniably strange and Beefheart-y voice comes to play: not only are we treated to some of the legend’s eccentric and brilliant oddity shines, but the album’s finest tracks are unveiled- God Culture is one of the most direct and unforgettable songs I have been treated to for a long while. Having investigated Rehlinger’s other works, it is stunning to see the development and difference- not keen to repeat himself, this is a much more focused, muscular and impressive work. The master of sonic innovation and intrigue, there is no a flat moment or insincere thought on Coyote Gospels– it is as dangerous, imperious and wonderful as the title itself. Before I investigate Reverend Moon in closer detail, I will sum up the album- as best I can. It instills the spirits of Dylan, Young and Cohen- the masters of the ’60s and ’70s Folk movement- and rustles up comparatively deep and spellbinding songs. The sights of visions and dreams has psychedelic edges- Beefheart and Frank Zappa- and give you an insight into our hero’s haunted mind. Plenty of beauty and restraint shows its pride: Singing The Blues is a gentle and mellifluous beauty (with some unforgettable lyrics to boot). You see the tracks whizz by; the music is so fast and potent- you want to replay scenes and songs over and over. That mix of weight and huge epic grandeur is counterbalanced with some introspective and ghostly moments- the mixture is a heady and incredible fusion. Reverend Moon is a name that you need to follow now: I hope that a Facebook and Twitter account does come- give fans a chance to connect with one of music’s most potent and important warriors. Having an air of mystique and detachment, the songs have an extra layer of curiosity and meaning- you fill in the biography and details as you go along. Perhaps wanting to ensure the music does not get buried with the shallowness and unimportance of social media and ‘likes’, a rare bird has flown: one that wants the music to say everything that is needed. It would be terrific to see more work from Rehlinger; knowing that Coyote Gospels is the result of 20 years of hard graft- we may way a little longer. His voice is that which instantly grabs and mesmerises: imbued with the flair of Dylan’s croon and gravel, it has passion, energy and force to it- mobile enough to fit into a variety of scenarios and pieces. Displaying more flexibility than Dylan, so many colours and layers are evoked- making each song filled with life and meaning. The songwriting shows a clear amount of hard work and discipline. You can tell the songs aren’t tossed-off and hurried: the detail and quality of each track could only come from a writer that wants to make sure everything is as good as it could be. So many new acts are under pressure- the public want music as soon as possible- that disposability and short attention-spans have taken over- when albums like Coyote Gospels arrive, it should change people’s way of thinking. Swaggering, alluring and bomb-blast Blues compositions sit with Bluegrass rushes; Folk beauty and stillness; deranged and unsettled Psychedelia- nothing is scattershot or fragmented; it is solid and rounded. The exceptional production values bolster the vocals and compositions: everything is clear and atmospheric; no chance for misinterpretation or slenderness, the music is given proper room to shine. I was not expecting to witness an artist like Reverend Moon- I am so glad that I did. Not only am I going to be replaying the album- until Doomsday- but have been inspired to write myself. Some of the cuts provided are strong and emphatic enough to get the mind racing; compel the pen to scribble and dream- if an act can do that, then you cannot fault them. If you have not heard the splendors and brilliance of Canada’s hardest working musician- ensure that you check it out in its complete beauty.
In addition to having been introduced to something special and unique; Reverend Moon is an artist that deserves a wide and hungry audience. Having worked so tirelessly on Coyote Gospels, the time and effort has truly paid off- it is one of the most deep and emotional albums available. With a voice that mixes wisdom, maturity; passion, fear and strength it is an instrument that makes every song rich and fascinating- the weight and urgency that is directed at the listener means the tracks grip onto your brain. The songbook is full with myriad themes and sights: personal heartache and confessions; religious images and tableaux; death and mortality; bonding with Jesus and the Devil- how many other albums can you find these particular blends? That is not to say that Coyote Gospels is a heavy and angry work- the testament of a man rallying against the world and finding answers in detached realms. Reverend Moon has had a hard road to where he is now; struggled and encountered plenty of pain- his L.P.’s thirteen tracks are the writings of a human being with a distinct and intelligent musical mind. Never projecting a suffocating or smothered sensation, the music is rich and emotive; filled with plenty of light and open moments, it is the sort of album that everyone should investigate- embers of some of the ’60s finest records come to mind. With the current scene being filled with so much empty and stupefying inconsequentialness, the artists that matter most- providers of the finest music around- are not getting as much recognition and safety as they deserve- something needs to happen to ensure they do not suffer or die away. Canada is at the forefront of something quite astounding: an underrated and overlooked avenue for music, the nation is showcasing some of the world’s finest and more confounding musicians. Housing a rich and rewarding music economy- which promises rewarding links and bonds- the country is giving more than it is taking- providing the world with some truly astonishing sounds. Whereas bands- Canadian artists- like The Dirty Nil and JEEN have their own distinct and exhilarating sound, Reverend Moon stands out from the contemporaries- it is incredibly hard to compare Coyote Gospels to much else out there. Rehlinger’s mixture of heretical hymns and apocalyptic epics is a breath of fresh air for music- anything that provides such an original and unexpected reaction should be subject to mass appeal and regard. I hope that the Canadian manages to see his special blend of song translate across the ocean (to arrive in the U.K.)- there is such a gap in the market that we need more acts like him. Europe and Britain have very few artists that summon a comparable wonder- make sure you do not overlook Reverend Moon’s magnum opus. Building and being developed over the last 20 years, you would imagine his album would be over-rehearsed and overdone- what comes through is a body of work that sounds fresh, alive and of-the-moment. Being involved with Toronto Psychedelic/Space-Rock band Moonwood; Rehlinger has built a reputation throughout Canada- few people may be familiar with him in the U.K. Reverend Moon remains a little bit of an enigma- familiar and seen (in his alter-ego projects of Moonwood and Babel), the mysterious icon projects his essence and personality through his music. This review contains fewer photos and links than you may be used to; the music is the most important thing on offer, but you wonder whether Rehlinger will give the world some Facebook/Twitter insight. Coyote Gospels is an album that hits you in a number of ways: it compels you with its fascinating sounds and stories; it also makes you want to know more about the hero. Coming across as a stunningly curious figure, it would be good to think Rehlinger will bring his pastor to the U.K.- entrance and seduce the London audiences; bring his intoxicating musical potions to our stiff upper lips. Being secluded from such cosmic and spiritual scenes; trapped inside a more conservative sonic world, Reverend Moon provides a cherry bomb of heady scents and phenomenal stories. Capable of attracting lovers of Dylan, Beefheart and Cohen- the Canadian is going to hit a lot of hearts and minds. I hope that his next L.P. comes along sooner (than 20 years); that some more material comes from our hero- in the next couple of years. An itinerant and ambitious musician, Rehlinger has his creative mind in a number of places- it does not lead to diffuse attention or reduced quality. All of his creations are different and powerful- I would love to see a follow-up to Coyote Gospels. With music proffering so many false idols; beholding weak and uninspired leaders- we all need some guidance. Reverend Moon has overcome a great deal; able to instill it into some layered and fascinting music, they are tales designed to inspire the unconverted. With no boundaries, secular limitations or rigid rules, they are songs…
EVERYONE can believe in.
About the Author:
Jakob Rehlinger’s other projects/music can be found at: