When I think ballet music, I think of Tchaikovsky, classical symphonies, romanticism, The Nutcracker, and now, the three-piece experimental-folk band, Mercies.
Mercies, “a band not bound by lyrics,” provides their take of a ballet soundtrack on their new 22 minute EP. They are bound by nothing in this EP as Josh Rheault and Sammy Dent take the best of what they have to offer and turn it into something refreshing and vivid. The band shows off their whole spectrum of music as we see the trio settle into the unique sound they coined in their debut album, Three Thousand Days.
When I interviewed the band several months back, they let me in on their future plans that involved incorporating musical scores into their music. With Josh’s personal and guitar-driven style of song writing and Sammy’s background in experimental classical composition and composing, it was only a matter of time before the band released a 5 song epic like this, that dances, paints pictures, and screams. Although Three Thousand Days seems more personal and affirming, The Ballet EP seems to be more meaningful, as if the sum of all their musical experiences, endeavors, and styles up until this moment were put together to make something that that truly moved them and, in consequence, anybody who gives this EP a good listen.
For the first nine minutes of the EP are separated into two vocal-less tracks called “Music for a Ballet: Light” and “Music for a Ballet: Dark.” As I listened to these two tracks filled with swells, flutters, space, and chaos, I closed my eyes and was put into a trance as I watched a perfectly in sync ballet. “Writing the music for the ballet was both challenging and inspiring,” said Josh Rheault. For quite possibly being the first band to make a ballet soundtrack as a 3-piece indie-rock band, it is only fair to presume it would be a challenge, but to do it so perfectly was a surprise that was most pleasing. Luckily, for the listeners like myself (or at least the ones that live in Virginia) our imaginative ballet will come to life as the music is to be used in a ballet choreographed by Audrey Fenske at the Charlottesville Ballet.
In the bottom half of the EP is the Mercies material not meant for a ballet. Mercies choose two re-worked old songs, and a new song to accompany the ballet music. These songs embrace their progressive folk rock sound while relying less on vocals, hooks, and choruses to drive the songs along but instead a mix of ambience and hard rock. The third and middle track on the EP, "Clouds," is the stand out track on the album combining sounds to remind of a hybrid between Atlas Sound and Cold War Kids, combining true post rock with a raw indie rock sound. Mercies are moving fast and only gaining speed. Make sure to catch one of their upcoming shows.--Michael Giordano