If you’ve seen Mercury Rev live, you’d be forgiven for finding their records underwhelming. Their shows are powerful, streamlined and thunderingly loud, with frontman Jonathan Donahue leering like a pixie with a dirty secret. This is not to say they can’t do the business in the studio – 1998’s Deserter’s Songs was nominated for the Mercury Prize – but you feel there is unfulfi lled potential.
Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Low, Mogwai) mans the sound-desk once again, but this time he’s working with a bolder band. Their seventh LP, one of a dual release (Strange Attractor is instrumental and free to download) finds them scoring a movie only they could have envisioned, and not so much embracing sonic technology as groping it. It suits them down to the ground. Donahue’s spectral warble now comes framed within the sort of elemental beats and soundscapes it was made for. That such textures have been superfl uous throughout their 20-year career is unsurprising when you’ve got a guitarist like Grasshopper.
Like Sigur RÃ³s with bigger balls, Snowflake Midnight is located somewhere otherworldly, crossing pastoral meadows and battlefields alike. Instrumental centrepiece -October Sunshine’ is like slipping into a warm bath. The proggish -People Are So Predictable’ sees the band becoming The Mercury Volta. -Snowflake In A Hot World’ is at once featherlight and pummelling, with gorgeous piano washes and fuzzed bass. ‘All you’ve done and all you’ve become/ You’re where you should be,’ observes Donahue, possibly referring to this new Mercury Rev he has the pleasure of introducing. The pleasure is all ours.