PREVIEW "Snowflake in a Hot World," the opening track off Mercury Rev’s new Snowflake Midnight (Yep Roc), seems to touch lightly on the perishable nature of the band’s homegrown psych experiments. The New York combo has been around for more than two decades often lumped with Flaming Lips due to their common musical explorations and the fact that de facto member Dave Fridmann is also the Lips’ longtime producer which is long enough to fall into routine. But that’s not the way to make a Snowflake, so the band took a few new approaches to crystallizing the glimmering, moody yet surprisingly urgent psych-pop recording.
Moving blues played a part: Mercury Rev had to relocate its studio twice and was forced to purge unused equipment in the process. The tools that remained explain the electronic textures infusing the album. The group also played tiny clubs in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley area, buried on bills as the Harmony Rockets, and they’d try out one simple idea on generally unsuspecting audiences: "It could be a very simple motif," explains keyboardist Jeff Mercel from Boston. "We’d just take it and embellish and spin it out for 45 minutes in a live, electronic, improvisational sort of way." Back at the studio, the musicians also developed Snowflake Midnight‘s sound via improvisation. "I don’t think any of us wanted to sit by candlelight and try to write the perfect song and then impose it on everyone else," Mercel says. After a year, Mercury Rev had hundreds of hours of instrumental music. The pieces that "kept insisting you pay attention to them slowly rose to the top," says Mercel. The result, as "A Squirrel and I (Holding On…and Then Letting Go)" goes, was "something more beautiful but strange."
MERCURY REV With the Duke Spirit. Wed/17Thurs/18, 8 p.m., $25. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422, www.theindependentsf.com