Mercury Falls – Truth Over Lines (2013)

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Patrick Cress’ brainchild Mercury Falls is back again three years after they debuted with a project I previously opined that in their alchemy of jazz and alt-rock, “these guys figured it out right from the start.” Fueled by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Cress & Co. assembled another batch of studio recordings christened Truth Over Lines.

The follow-up to the praiseworthy Quadrangle continues on with the established formula of progressive jazz-rock that trades in an abundance of licks for texture, feel and mood. Joining Cress are drummer Tim Bulkley and newcomers guitarist Roger Riedlbauer and bassist Sam Bevan.

Truth makes just a tweak or two to that musical formula, most notably the larger presence of vocalist Michelle Amador, who sang on only one track the last time out. Here, she’s heard on the first five of these eight tracks, and sometimes she sings with lyrics (as on “Resign”) while other times sings without ’em (as on “All In The Game”). On the former, her crooning as Cress’ sax dance around her creates a zone of jazz competing with the rock syncopations of Riedlbauer and the rhythm section. For the latter, she’s tracking the guitar part, while Cress offers up countervailing lines. When the song unexpectedly shifts into a techno mode, she sings with lyrics, and then lays out for the final section of the song, a soothing, soulful, jazzy bit.

That blurring of styles is all over the album, by the way: “Chocolate Chip Cookies For Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner” (video of live performance above) obliterates boundaries between jazz, alt-rock and fusion. As Riedlbauer’s guitar gets incendiary, Cress’ baritone sax serves not to jazz up the song, but to intensify that rock vibe. “Orphans” is an empyreal gradual build of intensity, helped along by Riedlbauer’s electronic drones and “Sarasorta” works in a similar manner, only more dramatic. “Abacus,” written by Riedlbauer, ends the album energetically, boasting twisty unison lines between Cress and Riedlbauer most evocative of Canterbury jazz/rock. But since the band hates standing in one spot for too long, the middle section contains some interesting ambient passages.

Mercury Falls overcomes the sophomore slump but sticking with what worked for them so well on the first album. If anything, Truth Over Lines has strengthened any notion that this band can win over rock fans as a gateway to jazz and fusion.

Truth Over Lines went on sale May 15. Visit Mercury Falls’ website for more info.

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