Album Reviews

Glenn Mercer

Incidental Hum

Artist:     Glenn Mercer

Album:     Incidental Hum

Label:     Bar/None

Release Date:     10/09/2015

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The Feelies always felt a little askew, power pop by definition but experimental in purpose. Not surprisingly then, Feelies guitarist Glenn Mercer opts to take a somewhat daring approach to his second solo album (his first, Wheels in Motion, was released in 2007), one that finds him offering up a series of instrumental soundscapes that explore a broad array of sonic designs. While the end result could have been somewhat obtuse, Incidental Hum is hardly the random selection its title suggests. To the contrary, it’s a surprisingly accessible offering that boasts several first-rate melodies and satisfying shifts in tone and texture.

Happily, this is all evident early on with the beguiling opener, “Hana,” as well as with songs like “Mobil” and “Yuma,” where the aural suggestion is both rich and reflective. Although the lack of vocals diminishes the accessibility potential toe a certain extent, the inclusion of three well-known standards—Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun,” the old standby “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and Brian Eno’s prog classic “Here Comes the Warm Jets”—elevates the material’s level of familiarity to a modest extent.

According to Mercer, the album was inspired by some soundtrack work he and fellow Feelie Bill Million initiated in 1982. The experience allowed him to pursue some improvisational ideas that were influenced by Phillip Glass, Kraftwerk, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. Incidental Hum indeed finds its inspiration in music for films, specifically, genres that run the gamut from horror movies to spaghetti westerns to surf flicks, styles both sophisticated and superfluous.

Surprisingly, it all works well, an indication that Mercer may have found his calling as a genuinely sophisticated auteur, one with the touch of a fine Feelie indeed.

—Lee Zimmerman

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