Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Mercury Rev 'The Light In You' (ALBUM REVIEW)

It’s almost two decades since Mercury Rev bewitched and beguiled a largely unsuspecting public with the critically acclaimed ‘Deserter’s Songs’. That fine album probably also saved them from impending oblivion, the resulting trio of hit singles putting the similarly surprised band squarely in the limelight as the new millennium dawned. Those heady days have long since passed with fans reduced to waiting patiently for the past seven years, no new material emerging since 2008’s Snowflake Midnight.

‘The Light in You’, Rev’s eighth long player proper constitutes a welcome return to the studio for Jonathan Donahue, along with, Sean ‘Grasshopper’ Mackowiak, the only other original band member left as we enter a new phase in the journey of Mercury Rev. Firstly, their record label for the past four releases, V2 has been replaced with Bella Union and secondly, long-time producer and former bassist Dave Fridmann is not at the controls here, with Donahue and Grasshopper fulfilling duties between them closer to home turf.

Those who remember ‘Deserter’s Songs’ will immediately feel at home here, as the sound is, lushly textured, immersive and expansive, possessing a cinematic feel that echoes the pair’s recent experimentations putting music to film.

(Photo - Alise Marie)
Opening salvo ‘Queen of Swans’ is almost hymnal in delivery with its comforting strings and, Gregorian backing vocals. ‘Amelie’ is dreamy and elegiac with cryptic references to perhaps kicking a pharmaceutical habit, the dreaminess maintained throughout ‘You’ve Gone With So Little So Long’, ‘Coming up for Air’ and ‘Autumn’s in the Air’, the latter gentling coaxing the listener out of their reverie as the song starts to build to a thrilling climax followed by post-coital denouement.

Things take a more urgent turn in ‘Emotional Free Fall’ and ‘Central Park East’, itself an eloquent study in observation, and also the futuristic ‘Are You Ready?’ where the band comes closest to properly rocking out. ‘Sunflower’ is also in a seriously big hurry, sounding like it could have been written with a car chase sequence in mind.
Almost title track ‘Moth Light’ manages to be throwaway yet disarmingly innocent at the same time as slide guitar and woodwind add to the effect, then ‘Rainy Day Record’ gives us a Spectoresque wall of sound to finish things off.

Great to see Mercury Rev once more back in business.

Words - Mike Price
'The Light In You' is out now on Bella Union
Mercury Rev official