Spokenword Audio Review: Kevin Max/Adrian Belew – Ravensongs 101

The Ravensongs 101 project shouldn’t be viewed in the same terms as a regular music release, but, as a conversation between art and listener. It is expected that some initially drawn to this release on the basis of Kevin Max’s past association with dc Talk may not fully appreciate this project for what it is. Poetry, not often intended to be bite size or sugar-coated, works best when an honest give-and-take dialogue of questions and interpretations exists between the reader (in this case the listener) and the poem itself. Concepts related to divinity, guilt, romance, pleasures of the flesh, conflict and hope are communicated less as sermons and more as confessions and open-ended questions. The name of the project is appropriate because, overall, the listening experience provided by this release is one blanketed with shadows and layers of complexity that reveal new details and nuances with every repeated listen. That being said, the full audio affect is best appreciated while listening alone in a room with dimmed lights or none at all. This isn’t one to play for the kids on the way to daycare. The project is notable mainly because of Max’s masterful control of his voice as an instrument that, while demanding the listener’s attention to the integrity of each poem, works in tandem with Adrian Belew’s (King Crimson – has worked with Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, Talking Heads) instrumentation to create an audio experience that hooks the listener without relying on the traditional structural format of a song. The rhythmic variations of Belew’s instrumentation serve to enhance, to a higher level, the dynamic between tone, meter, and concept Kevin Max consistently and articulately injects into his poetry. With each track built on the framework of Max’s poems instead of some formulaic framework that guarantees a shot at pop stardom, this project serves as another testament to Kevin Max’s intent to produce artwork with integrity at all costs.

It is available through iTunes and Amazon

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