The Quality of Mercury – Nazareth, Pennsylvania
Patrick Lew – San Francisco, California
Herman Martinez – Lawrenceville, Georgia
The Quality of Mercury – Transmission
Pennsylvania songwriter, musician and producer Jeremiah Rouse is the one-man band behind the musical moniker The Quality Of Mercury, or aka, his sci-fi and rock-loving alter ego.
TQOM’s debut album, Transmission, recently re-released on vinyl with bonus tracks (available via Bandcamp), is an epic sci-fi space rock journey with big, flourishing orchestrations of synths and ringing, distorted guitars kicking out lush, lo-fi melodies with sweeping, uplifting hooks; reverb-oozing vocals; unusual rhythms and beats, crashing cymbals and regular chord changes; a cornucopia of sound effects, periods of drifting in outer space daydreaming; introspective, intelligent lyrics.
The album opener, “Deep Space,” is a thickly textured, psychedelic rock-influenced track with soaring vocals and orchestration that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The following track, “Deprivation Sickness,” is ironically warm and dreamlike, slower than the other tracks and full of plenty of fuzz.
Another standout track, “Breathe In Stereo,” is an intense melodic mix of crackly space rock signatures, synth pop fusions with crunchy guitar riffs, progressive percussions, crashing cymbals, spacey sound effects, radio outtakes, and reverb layered vocals and choruses.
“The song tells the story of a man,” Rouse says about ‘Breathe in Stereo,’ “who is traversing the vastness of space, chasing down mixed signals from an unrequited love while both knowing that their eventual union will culminate into an everlasting symbiotic union.”
As the LP progresses, the fuzzy dream-pop nature of “Deprivation Sickness,” and the soothing quality of Rouse’s vocals eases into the countdown of the slow-burning, “The Orion Ascension,” with its intricate percussion shifts and guitar work. Not surprisingly, Rouse’s influences range from Failure and Hum to Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, and his musical beginnings actually date back a decade as the member of a number of punk and emo indie bands.
Another promising track from Transmission, “Her Eyes Are The Stars” – which has been getting some love recently on Soundcloud, lifts off spontaneously with an out-of-the-gates blast of distorted and shimmering guitars, soaring atmospheric keys and vocals, and intricate melody changes to create a sensory overload, wall of sound, out-of-this-world blazer.
Clocking in at almost nine minutes, however, means it may not be a bit long for radio rotation and playlists as some would like. Rouse has hinted at the possibility of a radio edit in the future.
Closing out the album are a pair tracks with intricate arrangements – the dreamy, post-rock-like ballad, “Andromeda,” and the remarkable, hook-filled, “Terminal Velocity,” which may also be one of the most accessible tracks on the LP. The latter track could even be spun off as a single as a radio edit.
Via Bandcamp: “Terminal Velocity” – The Quality Of Mercury from Transmission
There are definitely two ways to look at the radio edit question: there’s the sentiment of don’t mess with the original work, and artists who feel that way. Or there’s those who would encourage a radio edit because it will be heard by, and more likely shared by, more listeners (who also have the option of course to listen to the original).
After all, artists constantly make different versions – or allow other artists to make other versions or covers of – their music. In fact, there are more radio edits, mixes, remixes, remasters, covers, etc. of songs nowadays than ever before.
Throughout Transmission, the songs are full of layers and layers of fuzzy, distorted guitars, experimental synth sounds, warm melodies, crashing cymbals and booming percussions; one can imagine it as a soundtrack to a modern indie sci-fi film. And most impressive, especially for a first outing: Rouse did everything on his own.
Patrick Lew – History, Part One
Based out of San Francisco, the Bay Area lo-fi songwriter and musician Patrick Lew recently released an overwhelming 47-song compilation – titled History, Part One – of demos, outtakes, instrumental jams and original tracks, covering years of his home recordings spanning from 2001 through 2016.
While we appreciate the fact that this album is a compilation covering 15 years of music, it could have been made much more digestible by leaving out some of the rough demos, especially in the beginning of the compendium.
But, then again, that’s also the wonderful thing about DIY – he didn’t have to, and so he didn’t. So, on that count, kudos on the anti-commercial packaging.
“I recorded most the tracks [on History] in my home studio to put out something that I was most inspired by – which is 1980’s and early 90’s hard rock blended with punk,” Lew told IRC.
Despite the lo-tech, lo-fi quality of many tracks on this compilation, there is still a lot to pick from here; altogether, it’s quite an offering from an ambitious and long-time underground, DIY-to-the-core songwriter, singer and musician.
To the latter point, Lew has some impressive guitar jamming skills as tracks like the riveting “The Free World” and “Surfing With The Alien,” among others, demonstrate.
And while it’s true that of all of the 47 tracks, there are only a handful that may be accessible to the general music-loving population (esp. if mixed and mastered), like the jangly eccentricity of, “Don’t Give Up On Me Girl” or the uniformity of “Two Princes,” not to mention a pretty good full band instrumental cover of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
MP3: “Don’t Give Up On Me Girl“ – Patrick Lew from History, Part One (2001-2016)
In addition to the mentioned cover, there are plenty of kick-ass guitar instrumentals like like the frenetic and fuzzy “Crime of Passion,” or the keyboard and guitar funk-inspired, “Revenge,” and the metal-leaning, “Friend Zoned.” Let’s not forget the extra-bizarre, such as “Crippled” and “Fuck You.”
“I grew admiring 80’s and 90’s rock music but mostly my roots are in punk music,” Lew says, who also tours with the band TheVerse. “My goal was to blend everything I was most inspired by and use it to speak to others.”
There are also strangely appealing tracks like the hissing demo, “Sleep Forever”; surprising cuts like the experimental, electro-driven, “The Lesser Evil”; inspiring tracks like the raw, punk/blues of “#FollowMe”; strangely emotional songs like the vocal-busted, Daniel Johnston-channeling, “Heartbreak Lullaby”; unexpected and uplifting moments on tracks like “Everywhere You Look,” or the 70’s-influenced instrumental, “Kick Back…And Do It For The Gram,” and the more chaotic, per “Don’t Give Me Your Shit.”
Some die-hard, lo-fi, and patient, indie fans will very likely find moments on this extensive compendium they enjoy, and may be drawn fully into the strange world of Lew’s exhaustive collection of home recordings.
Herman Martinez – Secret Doors Hidden Stairs
Multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Herman Martinez relocated from New Jersey to rural Georgia a couple of years ago to live a more bucolic life in the town of Lawrenceville.
After settling into his new home in the deep south, Martinez recruited the help of drummer Hank Yaghooti and producer Ahmed Mahmoud to work on his sophomore album, Secret Doors Hidden Stairs – “a labor of love one year in the making,” he says.
The songs on the album – including standouts like the opening melodies of “Season Premiere”; the chilling “Secret Identity”; and the discordant instrumental, “John Travolta’s Theme,” among others – are strange and different, and wonderfully crafted and realized by a musician who obviously knows exactly what he wants to do and is not afraid to put his own personal stamp on his surreal, dream-like music in overt, and delightfully nuisance, ways.
For more than 15 years, Martinez, who is also a painter and tattoo artist, performed in other bands. However, a few years ago, he was comfortable enough with his skills and his songs to record his solo debut album, Solopsi Radio.
Martinez says that he “grew up playing music with my high school friends, always had a band but also solo projects on the side.”
During the ensuing years, he learned to play various instruments, including the guitar and piano, “tinkered with programming music” and matured as a songwriter. Martinez’s biggest influences include King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, The Beatles, Smashing Pumpkins, Slayer, Tool, and Kaki King, among others.