Carey Mercer’s choice of releasing Blackout Beach’s Light Flows the Putrid Dawn, his solo debut, in the same month that his main band, Frog Eyes, released the sprawling and intricate The Folded Palm is odd. Yet given Mercer’s stream-of-consciousness songwriting, logic can’t really be a major staple of his lexicon.
The complex beauty on The Folded Palm overshadows these sparse musings on all levels. Like comparing Bob Pollard’s Fading Captain records to Guided by Voices or Jeremy Enigk’s solo record to Sunny Day Real Estate, the basis is logical but the difference is clear. Mercer’s songs with Frog Eyes crash, howl and scream. With Blackout Beach the band has left for the night and the recorder is still rolling. And here Mercer begins his lo-fi experiments.
At twenty-four minutes and thirteen tracks, the unfurling of the album feels like GbV’s Alien Lanes, drifting from one thought to the next in a schizophrenic rhythm. Sonic droning permeates, particularly on the midway instrumental “The Transfiction of Bo-Brick-lus,” where a tinkering with Xylophone gradually builds tempo. This is the soundtrack to a spaceship landing in the filmstrip running through Mercer’s head.
As with Frog Eyes’ tamer moments, Mercer howls and mumbles his way through much of Light Flows the Putrid Dawn. This is unfortunate — a closer, clearer look at his blurred songwriting style may have elevated its value. Imperative for Frog Eyes fanatics, this record may even freak out psych-rock dabblers.