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Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

Mercury Rev

Snowflake Midnight (Yep Roc)

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Mercury Rev's latest album is so dreamy that it makes The Flaming Lips seem comparatively grounded. Snowflake Midnight drifts and pulses through a natural world observed with occasionally microscopic vision and near-constant wide-eyed wonder.

That drift is not without direction or coherence, though-just as a twig borne along the currents of a river is definitely going somewhere, so too do these songs surf a slowly roiling stream of chill-out electronica and rock toward an indistinct place where mind and body submerge into the environment.

Lead singer Jonathan Donahue sings delicately, trying to ensure the submersion; for example, on the burbling opening track, "Snowflake in a Hot World," he whispers of individuality and uniqueness as though wary of exhaling heat that would destroy the snowflake's latticework.

Without the relatively determined rhythms of the music, Donahue would come across as unbearably precious-a documentary host speaking in hushed tones of nature's fragile balance. But "Butterfly's Wing" moves to a beat as strong as the fabled effect of such a wing's force turning into a tornado on the other side of the world, and "Senses on Fire" turns a potentially droning repetition of the phrase "senses are on fire" into a coolly intense mantra of excitement.

Snowflake Midnightcould use more of the hotter intensity that drives the middle passage of "People Are So Unpredictable (There's No Bliss Like Home)," and a little less willed innocence. Yet taken holistically-as it is clearly meant to be-the album keeps Mercury Rev's bright dream in focus.