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Mercury Rev - Snowflake Midnight

Mercury Rev, Snowflake Midnight

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

MERCURY Rev have re-invented themselves once already. The first time helped to take them from avant garde sound pioneers with a small group of followers, to a major US indie act, thanks to the success of 1998’s Deserter’s Song.

Having found it difficult to continue growing as a band within the crowded indie market, Mercury Rev have decided to throw off the shackles once again with Snowflake Midnight, an exhilarating new LP that demands that you sit up and take notice.

Gone is the guitar sound, or the shoegaze tendencies. Instead, we have swirling synths, En-esque ambience and ethereal flourishes worthy of Sigur Ros’ majesty. There’s not a dull moment among the nine songs that comprise this startling new beginning.

Album opener Snowflake In A Hot World sets the ball rolling in delicious fashion, some swirling synths swarming around the odd, stark piano chord and a haunted vocal exploring the impossibilities behind the idea of being snowflake in a hot world. It’s edgy, it’s surreal… yet hypnotic and beautiful too.

Butterfly’s Wing ups the tempo and tilts towards the dancefloor, a techno-style pulse being nicely offset by seductive piano loops and hopeful, fragile vocals. The imagery it throws forth is truly mind-blowing.

Former single Senses On Fire then positively explodes into life following a subdued, surreal beginning. It’s a headrush of a record and one of the highest highs that Snowflake Midnight delivers. But you have to be patient with it.

People Are So Unpredictable layers on the instrumentation, seldom settling into a specific groove, and yet somehow channelling the ambition and scope of Pink Floyd at their most experimental. It’s the type of song that may well divide opinion, especially among those that like their music tame and radio-friendly, but it’s bold, confrontational and as unpredictable as its name suggests.

October Sunshine furthers the good work, kicking off in Sigur Ros mode and suggesting images of sunrises over Arctic wastelands, or Ridley Scott-inspired Blade Runner landscapes, while Runaway Raindrop kicks off amid a flourish of lively synths and beats that could easily find their way into one of the midnight landscapes used to soundtrack a Michael Mann crime saga. Just like many of the other tracks, though, it doesn’t sit still for too long and keeps interrupting the momentum with an almost rude synth jab. It almost threatens to derail it, but the vocals redeem it and the song still manages to emerge as an album favourite.

Dream of A Young Girl As A Flower continues the “out-there” trend, complete with ghostly vocals, while the incessant hand-claps that kick-start Faraway From Cars once again titillate the senses and inspire another bout of wonder.

By the time you reach A Squirrel And I (Holding On… And Then Letting Go) you’ll be wondering why all albums can’t be this inventive and amazing. Mercury Rev may have had their detractors in the past, but the praise and accolades are certain to roll in on this one. It is, quite simply, mercurial.

Download picks: Butterfly’s Wing, Senses On Fire, Runaway Raindrop, Faraway From Cars, Snowflake In A Hot World

Track listing:

  1. Snowflake In A Hot World
  2. Butterfly’s Wing
  3. Senses On Fire
  4. People Are So Unpredictable (There’s No Bliss Like Home)
  5. October Sunshine
  6. Runaway Raindrop
  7. Dream Of A Young Girl As A Flower
  8. Faraway From Cars
  9. Squirrel And I (Holding On And Then Letting Go)

  1. This album is rightly being hailed as a work of genius. Welcome back Mercury Rev, where have you been?

    James    Sep 30    #