Mercury Rev are the kind of group for whom Peel Sessions were originally conceived: an all-channels-open, questing outfit who took the opportunity to reassess old favourites and break virgin territory.
Compiled from five sessions over 10 years, this CD set depicts how the band developed from the experimental aggregation that made the extraordinary debut Yerself Is Steam to the comparatively slick unit responsible for last year's sublime Snowflake Midnight. The former is represented by 1991's dense, swirling washes of distorted guitar noise streaked with flute and free-jazz clarinet, the standout being a version of "Chasin' a Bee (Inside a Jar)" re-cast as "Chasin' a Girl (Inside a Car)". A 1993 session is, if anything, even wilder, with the Miles-ian "Trickledown" built upon what sounds like a loop of a bull in considerable pain; but once original vocalist David Baker had left, a greater sense of melodic certainty was heralded in 1995 by the uplifting "Everlasting Arm" and a tender cover of "I Only Have Eyes for You". Covers subsequently featured more in later sessions, including a raw but faithful take on Lennon's "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama", and material by artists as broadly differing as Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath and Erik Satie, as weird-sounding a bill as Mercury Rev deserve to share.
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