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Mercury Falls: Quadrangle

Bruce Lindsay By

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Mercury Falls is an intriguing and somewhat ambivalent band name—and whether it refers to a celestial body, a mythological messenger, plummeting water, dropping temperatures or, indeed, to nothing at all, it's a name that readily reflects the fascinating and at times beautiful music that the band creates on its debut release, Quadrangle.

Although Mercury Falls disowns the term, much of the music on Quadrangle has a distinctly ambient feel to it (the band refers to it as "quiet, but not ambient.") It's not the serene ambience of an act such as Cipher or Tangerine Dream, however—there is always an edge to the music that suggests a storm beneath the calm. It's more to do with the sense that the sound the band creates is all-encompassing, creating its own strange environment.

Writing credits on the album belong to guitarist Ryan Francesconi—who is also the guitarist for harpist and singer Joanna Newsom's band—and horn player Patrick Cress, whose performance credits include work with bassist and composer John Clayton. Each man gets two sole credits, with three numbers being co-compositions.

Cress and Francesconi's "Insurance Rep" is a stylish tune which, despite being inspired by Cress' experience with his insurance company after a car accident, has a gentle beauty to it. Tim Bulkley's drums are key to the way the tune builds in intensity—reminiscent of the style of the young British drummer James Maddren. "Quad Idea," another co-composition, revolves around Cress' rough-edged baritone sax—it's a great sound that gives the tune an unusual center around which the other three musicians weave their contrastingly delicate patterns.

Cress' "Solar Plexus" is certainly not serene—this is a tune with an uncharacteristically menacing air, the storm rising above the calm, created especially by Francesconi's guitar and electronics, although bassist Eric Perney's solid foundation also helps to establish the menace. Cress' "Lullaby for Beane" and Francesconi's "Years Without Speech" and "Speech Without Years" bring the calmness back to the fore.

Quadrangle may be a debut, but the musicians' previous experience ensures that the album has a maturity and a completeness that many first time releases lack. The range of those experiences, from Cress' work with multi-media projects to Perney's time with Tom Waits, creates an enticing fusion of sounds and ideas.

Track Listing: Spring Pools; Speak Without Ears; Quad Idea; Years Without Speech; Insurance Rep; Solar Plexus; Lullaby for Beane.

Personnel: Ryan Francesconi: guitar, electronics; Patrick Cress: alto sax, baritone sax, bass clarinet, flute; Tim Bulkley: drums; Eric Perney: bass; Michelle Amador: voice (1); Barry Syska: voice (3).

Title: Quadrangle | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Porto Franco Records


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