Review: mercvrial - the stars, like dust

Updated: Jul 20, 2019

It’s 1986, the Bat Cave in Soho, London. Felt have just released ‘Forever Breathes the Lonely Word’ on Creation Records, and this is the first date of a short UK tour. A new group, Brighton-based Mercvrial, opens the bill. Guitars ring out like ambient cinders, the bass and drums forge a pulsing, elastic groove, and layered vocals float above the proceedings like a celestial choir. It’s the beginning of something very special for the young quartet; a sonic journey that will spawn multiple LPs of guitar-driven melancholy brilliance over a decade’s time.

Except none of that everoccurred. Mercvrial, you see, didn’t exist in 1986. In fact, the project known as Mercvrial began only this year, and originated not from the UK but rather from a small studio in Rosarito, Mexico. But you’d be hard-pressed to divine that based on the nostalgic sounds emanating from their debut EP, ‘The Stars, Like Dust,’ (TSLD) which will be released on CD and dropped on the major streaming platforms on August 9. No, TSLD sounds like some never-released dreampop treasure that long ago disappeared into Creation’s musty archives only to be unearthed decades later by an overzealous intern.

‘Otherworld,’ the EP’s opening track, blends Ride-like guitars with a Manchester shuffle. ‘Carnival’ is a neo-psychedelic gem blending dueling guitar crescendos – á la The Chameleons – with lush ‘60s vocal stylings. Covering a beloved ‘80s indie pop classic like The Chills’ ‘Pink Frost’ is chancy but Mercvrial handle the task with aplomb. Their reinterpretation veers into indietronica, like a collaboration between New Order and The Psychedelic Furs (holy marimbas!). Lyrically, TSLD is a tapestry of opaque imageryand wonder – there is a message hidden inside the frame, but the listener is expected to complete the picture on his/her own. All things considered, Mercvrial will likely appeal to fans of vintage acts like House of Love, early Primal Scream (think ‘Sonic Flower Groove’), Ride, The Church and other bands of that ilk. More modern references would include the likes of DIIV, Day Wave and Interpol.

The one knock on TSLD is that Mercvrial play it too safe. Despite the sparkling guitarchitecture, it’s clear that they are capable of greater exploration and adventure.

This debut EP is mature and hits all the right notes – it’s a clever, tasteful homage to the relevant genres, to which they’ve added their own unique impression. Hopefully, however, the band will take more risks with their next release, stray just a bit further from their roots and build upon the august foundation with which they’ve begun. Follow Mercvrial: