Snowflake Midnight

Mercury Rev

CD (2008) - A:larm / Yep Roc / V2 / Bonnier Amigo

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Alternativ / Poprock / Indierock / Psykedelia / Cinematisk / Elektropop

Snowflake in a Hot World
Butterfly's Wing
Senses on Fire
People Are So Unpredictable (There's No Bliss Like Home)
October Sunshine
Runaway Raindrop
Dream of a Young Girl as a Flower
Faraway From Cars
A Squirrel and I (Holding On... and Then Letting Go

Super Furry Animals
The Flaming Lips

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Se også:
All Is Dream - Mercury Rev (2001)
The Secret Migration - Mercury Rev (2005)
The Secret Migration - Mercury Rev (2005)
The Secret Migration - Mercury Rev (2005)
The Essential Mercury Rev: Stillness Breathes 1991-2006 - Mercury Rev (2006)

(4 / 7) (4 / 7) (4 / 7) (4 / 7) (4 / 7) (4 / 7) (4 / 7)

Midi holding back potential grandeur

Cinematic sounds from veterans Mercury Rev, but with an electronic Achilles heel.

Best Of-compilation and soundtrack aside, Snowflake Midnight is Mercury Rev's seventh album release. Founded in the late 80s and with a few line-up changes to their CV, the Buffalo band made a firm mark on the alternative pop scene with their iconic 1998 release Deserter's Songs, followed by the orchestral 2001's All Is Dream. It's hard to imagine Mercury Rev ever going wrong, but then again it's hard to follow up something so terribly right. Album number six, The Secret Migration from 2006, wasn't among Mercury Rev's most beautiful moments, and although a step up, Snowflake Midnight doesn't see them rush to raise the bar they placed so high at their peak.

Listening to Mercury Rev material for the first time is a non-predictable journey, Snowflake Midnight being no exception. Donahue and co seem very open to where ideas might lead them, which is undoubtedly the strength of the album. Runaway Raindrops is an epic composition with an out-of-the-blue dissonant mismatch of melodies towards the end. Senses On Fire opens with the sound of rain and strings, evolving into up-tempo pop-electro with Donahue singing "senses are on fire" on repeat in the background – it feels more like a skit than a track in its own right, despite clocking in at 3.31 minutes. People Are So Unpredictable... is dominated by moods rather than structure with its pounding drums, eerie backing vocals, uneasy breathing, and rolling synths. It's the title of the song made into music, a journey with unforeseeable destinations, and one of the standout tracks on the album.

However, while experimentation is usually a positive, the significant new element introduced on Snowflake Midnight is what pulls the end result down:

Heavy electronic influences. The idea in itself isn't bad, but in practice the Midi sounds turn out to be weak scaffolding for the voluminous and sonorous universe that Mercury Rev seem set on creating. It's not so much the extensive use of synths and synth effects, more the reliance on midi bass and drum programming that unfortunately turns the big moments into anticlimaxes – like stories with no purpose, jokes with weak punch lines. Opening track Snowflake In A Hot World with its luscious vocal harmonies framed by floating synths has its potential boost brushed away by its thinly-sounding electro drums. When occasionally 'natural' drums are brought in to assist, it's a teaser. It immediately lifts tracks, and gives an indication of the potential of Snowflake Midnight.

Electronic music (and the spoken word sequence in the middle of Runaway Raindrop) aside, the attraction of Snowflake Midnight is in Mercury Rev's approach to music and the ideas in circulation. Rather than being a collection of clearly defined songs, Snowflake Midnight feels like sections of sound put together to accommodate different moods and feels. It's cinematic, titles and lyrics being acted out both in composition and music.

However, where everything does come together, electronic elements included, is on Strange Attractor, the 11-track downloadable instrumental album released simultaneously with Snowflake Midnight. It comes with the price of having to sign up to Mercury Rev's newsletter, which is a modest demand considering what you get in return. Based around ambient synthscapes and melancholic atmospheres, Strange Attractor is an obvious companion, or even extension, of Snowflake Midnight. With stand-out tracks Fable of A Silver Moon and Loop, Lisse, Loop it's an indication of where Mercury Rev might be travelling. It's also a different review altogether.

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