The Quality Of Mercury – Transmission – Album Review
How I didn’t pick up on how this album got here and seemed so familiar to me…I’ll never know! Somewhere back in…like February I think…I ended up working on a bio-writing project for The Quality Of Mercury and actually had my first experiences with the music you’ll find on the new-record, Transmission. Which…while it’s certainly an indication of what is most surely a sign of my alzheimer’s to come – is also a welcome sigh of relief when it comes to trying to figure out where the heck I’d felt like I’d heard these songs before! I keep a lot of compartments…a lot of places where you’ll find music, notes and altogether random-stuff here on these studio computers…and though I spun as much of this album as I could when I first got the demo-versions back then…it wasn’t sitting in the right place where I normally grab my music to listen to daily. Quite thankfully – Jeremiah Rouse…the one-man band and musical-mind behind The Quality Of Mercury didn’t forget us when it came time to releasing Transmission in-full…and now I feel like I’m having an entire love-affair with a record I realize I nearly lost amongst a sea of submissions. I’m positive I can’t explain what that means to me properly – but that’s the best I’ve got…and truly, thankful is at least the right word for it all…because that is definitely how I’m feeling right now listening to the tunes from Transmission…I’m glad just to have’em back.
And yes…every once in a while it’s kinda nice to rediscover that I’m not entirely crazy after all. Cue the music and turn this UP!
First things first – we get good ol’ Jer here…not me, the one from The Quality Of Mercury – his well-earned & deserved credit for pulling off what we become one seriously intense & wild-ride of an album full of layers, depth and a masterful-grip on space & atmosphere – because lest we forget, he’s done this on his OWN. I’ve heard hundreds of ‘one-artist’ bands…and I think the pursuit and ambition of a self-made solo record is always an admirable one – BUT…to be quite honest, it’s rare that you’ll hear one as full, complete and well-thought out as what you’ll get on this new Transmission record. The songs have real grip, real teeth…and even though I might have misplaced this record in the four months as to where to find it easily – there’s no doubt about how quickly these melodies, rhythms and tones came flooding back to my mind once I’d heard them again…this is highly memorable material. Aside from that – Transmission gets its full-release this month…it’ll be much easy to remember when I’m sitting here cranking-up this album with full-volume each and every day. Don’t laugh…that’s an extreme possibility!
I don’t see why I wouldn’t – The Quality Of Mercury sounds like a blend of two of my favorite bands…I can hear the low-end crunch and space-like atmospheres of Failure and the lyrical-smarts and melody of a band like Death Cab For Cutie. Maybe for those of you familiar with Feeder…there’s a bit of that kind of seriously rock-infused pop-melodies…the kind that make you want to hear them over and over, yet they don’t wear out like so many pop-songs do in their first half-hour. What Jer has planned here on Transmission is all-kinds of deep when it comes to the dimensions of sound and extraordinary ways he’s got this record flowing…
As it starts out with “Deep Space” – you quickly jump into the atmosphere with a science-lab’s worth of sounds in the intro before this guy launches the drums, bass and guitars right off towards the moon in the opening-cut. LISTEN to that beefy sound…but also note the clarity – he’s done a great job of getting what my ears could only assume is the exact sound he’s looking for. “Deep Space” is as intense as it is melodic…the bass keeps it all grounded and gives him the room necessary to make the drums and guitars swirl, standout and stun as the album gets the cue to lift off and head nowhere else but UP. “Deep Space” begins with a high-standard of quality…and from this point on, it’s going to attempt to out-do each idea & song as the record plays, all in a bid to be your favorite. That’s a hell of a nice problem to have…don’t trust me on that though, listen to it for yourself!
My words won’t mean much anyway once you get to the grinding sounds of the beginning of “Breathe In Stereo.” This second track really highlights Jer’s ability to really set the lyrics to the music and he brings out some of his best early on in Transmission through this song. “Breathe In Stereo” is a lot closer to that Ben Gibbard-esque nature of the lyrics…but I’ll be damned if The Quality Of Mercury hasn’t managed to continue to keep that soon-to-be-signature low-end pumping meaty & beaty, with more intensity that anything Gibbard has done throughout his career in any of his projects. Not taking away anything from a song-writer I love dearly…but I am certainly saying he should be looking in his rearview mirror because Jeremiah Rouse is right on his tail and combining an equally high-caliber songwriting style with music that has real thickness, heaviness and intensity you could eat like a meal. If anything, he’s going to risk a little with the people that can’t handle their music coming at them in huge-waves and walls anyway…but my advice is on that would be to not change a damn thing – cater to me if you gotta – I’d listen to this record, style & sound over and over with zero complaining.
Flow-wise, you’ll notice the clever transitions to bring about the continuity in these eight songs. “Breathe In Stereo” revisits the computer-sounds of the intro at its end and drifts on its autopilot-setting right into “Deprivation Sickness.” While the hooks might not be as accessible for the masses…the atmosphere is a little lighter at its start before it begins to find more strength in sound…it’s a little bit more simplified and stripped back than what you’ve heard from The Quality Of Mercury as far as the ideas on the Transmission record are concerned – but even that in itself is playing a role. There is no doubt in my mind…even with as AWESOME as it is and becomes…it’s these kind of transitions that make the impact of a track like “The Orion Of Ascension” standout and loom as largely as they do. Probably an early favorite of mine in my spins through this album…”The Orion Of Ascension” is a mammoth-beast and once again, so extraordinarily produced that I’d be willing it makes BOTH Jer’s involved in this review crack a hammock-wide smile and beam with pride. He should be damn proud of how BIG his music sounds…and speaking for myself, I just get proud of our independent music-scene altogether when I hear something like this that easily rivals if not dominates anything you’ll hear from the mainstream. There is so much PUNCH to this album that I’m like, 85% positive I saw it scheduled first in line to fight Floyd Mayweather for the championship if he ever decides to come back out of retirement. I’m a huge fan of this cut…it really enhances the atmospheric and space-like elements of Transmission and the ideas in both its verse and chorus seriously make a gigantic impact on you. Much like I pointed out in the beginning of this paragraph – those transitions become a real key to this listening experience…and “The Orion Of Ascension” heads right into “Time” – the shortest track on the record which serves more as a shuttle-service between songs. “Time” keeps the atmosphere aligned on the record as Jer gets ready to hit the afterburners and hurtle this album towards the end with a stunning final three songs.
“Her Eyes Are The Stars” was probably another of the tracks that reminded me most of that proposed combination of Failure and Death Cab For Cutie…but like…NEW failure and OLD Death Cab. There’s a tone and sound to the melody that makes this track sound like it could nearly fit somewhere onto those first Death Cab albums…and the slick production on it all sounds more akin to when Ken Andrews of Failure allowed them to finally step out to the garage and into the studio for real. At nearly nine-minutes long, there’s no doubt about it – this is one of the wildest rides you’ll hear on the record. The guitars and the bass-lines work perfectly together throughout this track, especially in its uber-strong mid-section. Easily the kind of song that many other bands out there would have broken apart in order to create three incredible-tracks instead of one; and if that doesn’t say it all about Jer’s ambition right there I don’t know what does – he’s clearly never shied away from his own mountain-sized ideas. Instead, he’s run towards them at full-speed and come out sparklingly victorious. The instrumental final minutes of “Her Eyes Are The Stars” is freakin’ epically fantastic…I enjoyed the rhythm to the lyrics & vocals as well…don’t get me wrong…but the ending hypnotic-grind & groove of this tune is undeniable.
Brace yourself though if you haven’t already…because this rocketship has more than enough fuel in the tank to blast off to another entire solar-system and exploration of sound before it’s done! “Andromeda” is the kind of song that will put The Quality Of Mercury of the map for many people out there. With its smooth verse…you’d almost expect that this one might find a continuance in its lighter atmosphere and become the ‘babymaker’ of the record…and then the chorus explodes and burns harder, faster, stronger & longer than anything you’ve yet to hear on Transmission. Truly one of the strongest moments on his entire album…the massive, all-encompassing atmosphere of “Andromeda” is the kind of music my dreams are audibly woven from. Absolutely HUGE. I might have…maybe…cut this one down slightly in a spot or two, though I’m not sure where. As it heads from its final chorus, there’s still quite a bit of chunk of song left to hear…but I’m not sure it leaves “Andromeda” on the impactful-note it deserves to be honest. It’s certainly not unpleasant, it’s certainly not a bad sound or part I’d skip over intentionally at any time – but in comparison to its maximum-roar, this tune perhaps wanders a bit too far towards its ending.
In terms of production and how this record sounds – there’s not a damn thing I’d change on a single-knob or other button I’d push. It’s got absolutely every bit of depth and clarity that you could ever hope to find on a record…and if Jeremiah doesn’t end up staying a rock-star in front of the boards like he is now, he’s certainly got an equally large & valid future in-behind them. It’s more than impressive to hear this coming out of the independent music scene from a one-man show – Transmission is produced and performed as professionally as you could ever ask from an ENTIRE BAND, let alone one dude!
“Terminal Velocity” ends the experience on some of its brightest pop-melodies and most accessible hooks…though strung together in what feels like a looser-string of composition overall than many of the songs on this record. I’m more of a fan of its latter-half than how it starts, but I’d go to bat for the song overall as a solid ending to Transmission…I think it has that memorable nature and accessibility in sound that many people will instantly want to start the entire album over again, just like I did. The syrupy-sweet sound of the opening verse will nearly remind you of the blissful pop you’d more expect to find on a James Iha record, but written in that exploratory-style of those first Death Cab For Cutie records once again. That might be a really nice way of saying that this final tune is a little less focused perhaps than some of the others in terms of its own cohesion inside this one song – but again, each and every part itself has a ton of merit and validity to its existence. Also adding in an extended instrumental-section that puts the strength into the middle of “Terminal Velocity” once more…you’ve got everything from wicked guitar solos to inspired drumbeats that switch the music from simple melodies to complex ideas with ease.
The contrasting elements of Transmission overall, in that sense, have been audibly fantastic the entire time and really made this listening experience one to be remembered…no matter where I end up finding it stored around here the next time I reach for it! As far as I understand it and have talked with Jeremiah about the upcoming release…this mother of an album is going to be released as a vinyl as well – and for you audiophiles like me out there, I can’t express enough just how much I think this album belongs on one! The sheer depth of the sounds…the stunning production and atmosphere…the gritty textures crashing into seamless melodies and lyrical-flows…it has all the versatile dynamics you’d want to hear from that beautiful black circle of audible-awesomeness…and an authentic sound of the needle hitting the vinyl as this begins would only serve to enhance it that .0001 degree more…but I still think that’s going to be where that last final-touch to the overall sound of The Quality Of Mercury is going to be found. Jer won’t find it on another knob or button in the studio…he’s already pushed ALL of the right ones…there’s nothing more to be done with this album other than package it up onto the most dynamic & true audio format you can listen to and put it out there to the masses as the true art it really IS.
Transmission is beyond fantastic – this is a true achievement in independent music and there is only ONE man responsible for that…and that’s Jeremiah Rouse. Remember that name people…remember that name – you’re bound to hear it come up on several more incredible efforts from The Quality Of Mercury over the years to come and quite possibly in the liner-notes of a whole lot of records that are dominating our attention in the not-too-distant future.
This album is what success & a mission-accomplished truly sounds like – enjoy it!
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