If you don’t know Jeff Mercel by name, there is a pretty good chance you have heard at least some of his music. A composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Mercel was a contributing member of the pioneering American indie rock band Mercury Rev from their critically acclaimed album Deserter’s Songs in 1998 until leaving the band in 2010 to focus on composition for television and film. His work has appeared on major TV shows like CSI and This American Life and commercials for mega companies like Pepsi, BMW, & Google and he continues to work as a session musician, band member (Miracle Whips, Ultraam), as well as being national music director for O+ (a national non-profit, based in Kingston, NY that works to provide musicians & visual artists with access to health care).
The music for his first full-length solo recording under his own name, however, is a much more intimate affair and was recorded in his home “mostly in the kitchen, on a sometimes unruly upright piano”. Lunescapes Volume One is a shimmering collection of instrumental “vignettes, intimate landscapes, and lo-fi fantasies” rendered with the sure hands of a skilled composer and journeyman musician with a keen melodic ear.
Along with Mercel on piano and analog synths, the music is given added dimensions by guest musicians such as Jonathan Talbott (violin & viola), Jane Scarpantoni (cello), D. James Goodwin (pedal steel guitar), and Matthew Cullen (sonic manipulations). The album has something of an episodic flow with subtle shifts in narrative, tone, & color, but the disarming lyricism and overarching reflective mood sustain an exquisite suspension of time from the mesmerizing opening sketch “No. 13” to the austere melancholy and tender swells of the final coda, “No. 11 (Long Distance Declaration)”. Lunescapes Volume One is like a short novel that ends perfectly but you wish could still go on. The good news is that the sequel is on the way as the second volume is already in the works.
Lunescapes Volume One features cover art by Rachel White and is available on limited edition cassette via Psychic Troubles Tapes (50 copies) and on vinyl LP directly from Mercel’s Bandcamp site where you can also find digital copies of his film scores as well.