Change in name marks sharp change in musical direction from songwriter from Galveston via Nicaragua.
Robert Kuhn has been part of the Galveston music scene since arriving from Nicaragua back in 2012, recording two albums under his own name firstly the live album, ‘Everybody Knows’, in 2014, followed in 2017 by, ‘Maria The Gun’. The sound was relatively sparse, drawing from a familiar template of Folk and Blues making full use of the traditional instruments and fine harmonies that supported Kuhn’s somewhat oblique lyrical narrative and collectively created a very pastoral sound. The latter album was supported by a lengthy tour through out the United States until on the final day of August 2019 when Kuhn was involved in a near fatal crash that left left him hospitalised and in a critical condition for many weeks. One assumes a full recovery was made, but whether or not any scars physically or mentally remain things have changed. Firstly he no longer goes by his name Robert Kuhn, but instead operates under the moniker of, Galvezton, and just as significantly, the warm organic folk songs of the previous albums are now drenched and awash with keyboards and synthesisers.
The album opens with, ‘Li’, where a gentle acoustic guitar competes with the jarring chords of the electric equivalent, while a smattering of harmonica and mandolin still holds to the echo of the previous albums evoking an Indie Psych Blues sound akin to the likes of Kurt Vile. However things begin to change by track two, ‘Dragons’, where the driving guitar is soaked in a mass of keyboards creating a wall of sound propelled along by an hypnotic beat that at it’s most intense is reminiscent of 70’s Hawkwind complete with a dark and vaguely discernible chant. Songs like, ‘Screen Savior’, and the title track, ‘Persevere‘, continue with the broad brush strokes of this production creating a multi layered atmospheric sound, and while Kuhn’s singing here has a greater confidence than previous recordings it is with less harmonies and instead a greater emphasis on echo and sustain. This is probably most noticeable on the album’s standout track, ‘Shake Attack’, with its infectious beat revelling in a retro Glam Rock swagger reminiscent of early Roxy Music.
It is probably unfair to compare, ‘Persevere’, with previous Kuhn albums, as the change in name is clearly meant to signify a whole different project, possibly a one off, but it is difficult not to use them as a touchstone. This extravagant production has clearly created a more sonically experimental album that at its most successful conjures up comparisons with the likes of Phosphorescent, or even War On Drugs, however it at times can feel heavy handed and overblown resulting in a sound closer to that of the Flaming Lips or Spiritualised but without the bombastic humour. Yes, there are numerous layers to uncover that disclose a host of instruments almost buried beneath the weight of the production, but rather than reveal a secret depth it rather just distorts and distracts. There is no problem connecting with the beat and pulse of the album, what is harder to detect is its heart and soul, as the very essence of many of the tracks is just lost in a soundscape wilderness. It could be argued that this approach has increased the albums commerciality but equally it may have lost a certain level of song craft.
This is an album that manages to delight and frustrate in equal measures. Kuhn is clearly a gifted songwriter but with this project his talents too often plays second fiddle to the somewhat over the top production .