Matthew Revert and Vanessa Rossetto – Everyone Needs A Plan

Matthew Revert and Vanessa Rossetto - Everyone Needs A Plan, illustration of a boy and girl holding a trailing cloth out of a flying shoe.

Words play a very important role in Matthew Revert and Vanessa Rossetto’s “Everyone Needs A Plan”, more so than in their previous collaboration for Erstwhile Records, “Earnest Rubbish”. Following a gentle, tentative start, the pair begin taking it in turns to utter single words or short fragments of phrases. These words are often hard to hear, and don’t seem to add up to any coherent concept or narrative. I get the sense that there’s often a simple revelling in pronunciation, and in the contrasts between the two artist’s voices — one Australian and one American, one male and the other female.

These words are uttered against a vast and varied backdrop of sounds, some pitched but most not: rattling, hissing, scraping, clattering, humming, whirling, clicking, ringing, and so on. Individual sounds are heard for a short while before falling silent, to be replaced by other ones. Substantial effort must have been required to devise, produce, and arrange such an enormous range of sonic material (the album’s single track is 75 minutes long, and it’s very rare for a sound to recur in different places). The result is a constantly changing sound environment — shifting, unstable, dynamic, alive.

Speaking of dynamics, things remain pretty gentle until the two artists begin speaking in unison. Suddenly there’s more intensity and urgency to the background music, though the difference is subtle. Rossetto continues speaking on her own for a while, still in fragmentary phrases; then both artists speak at the same time, but saying different things. Who are they speaking to? Each other? No — there seems to be no semantic connection between the words uttered by each artist, no suggestion of question and answer or of unfolding conversation. This is not a dialogue, at least not in the standard linguistic sense of the term.

A cyclical squeaking and squealing, the protests of a poorly oiled machine. A languid tick-tock two-note refrain.

Another change of gears: multiple layers of voices, cacophonous. The tone darkens thanks to a minor-key pitched harmony and a mournful (or simply yearning?) wordless sung note repeated over and over again. Another singing voice babbles off-key. The impression I sometimes get is one of profound isolation — of lots of people talking to themselves without any meaningful connection to each other, a potent metaphor for our Internet-mediated age I suppose. But from another perspective noise itself is a kind of connection, a kind of shared not-understanding and effort to forge some kind of sense. The music grows in intensity and weight before slowly dissipating, Rossetto’s voice growing quieter and quieter until it is little more than a murmur.

I’ve enjoyed previous work by Revert and Rossetto, both solo and collaborations, but “Everyone Needs A Plan” is something else; in terms of scope and ambition, it’s on a whole other level compared to anything either have done before. And they pull it off in such a powerful, convincing way — it’s a long listen, but every step is so absorbing, and the structure unfolds so satisfyingly that by the time you reach the end the gentle opening feels a very long way away. It very much feels like a landmark release in these artists’ already outstanding discographies.

Matthew Revert

Vanessa Rossetto

Erstwhile Records

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