Saul Stokes - Washed in Mercury hyp1603
Using synthesizers and sound devices built by Stokes himself, Washed in Mercury achieves a sound as singular as the technology used to make it.
Track listing with MP3 sample clips:
01 We Found It At Io
02 Deep in the Grass
03 Tunnel Twins
07 Sweet Paraffin
(Total playing time: 63 minutes)
Reviews"Washed in Mercury, the first disc from (Saul) Stokes, also treads in extraterrestrial territories and metaphorical dreamstates, but the incorporation of rubbery beats provides earthly anchors. For verification, experience the perambulating "We Found It At Io," akin to the feel of a moonride in a vehicle with a flat tire, your equilibrium becoming upset and out of sync as unidentifiable galactic detritus whizzes by. Stokes's deft use of color, timbre and rhythm is remarkably cohesive -- the spacefunk throb of "Kasei" essentially renders some of its better known European equivalents moot, as it seductively marries the pulse of digidub to the science fiction aspects of space music, minus the genre's familiar vocabulary. Rinse off the mercury and await Stokes' further exploits with fervent interest."
--Darren Bergstein / i/e Magazine
"Top 50 of 1997."
--Chuck VanZyl, Star's End Radio, WXPN, Philadelphia
"Ambient synth crossover -- minimal soundscapes, drifty and cosmic. Seven tracks of really excellent music for lovers of synthy space music!"
--Midas Synth Catalogue listing
"Washingtonian Saul Stokes certainly exhibits his musical diversity with the release of his debut album on Portland's Hypnos Records. "Washed in Mercury" ranges from the ambient drones favored by experimental fans to more rhythmic selections that share more in common with modern Industrial. The one thing this album certainly doesn't hold a candle to is the darkness of both aforementioned genres. In fact, most of the music on the album is startlingly upbeat and almost happy. This is not to confuse the music with say such genres as Synth-Pop, because it's not, but rather to state that chosen musical elements contain a very bright, organic mood to them as opposed to a dark, metallic sound favored by most Industrial artists. The album also contains absolutely no vocals, instead Saul has chosen to work within the framework he knows best, namely expansive instrumental compositions. One item unique to this record is that each track on the album is of sufficient length to cross many musical genres with it's time span. This allows each composition to flow and wander into whatever direction it desires, which is something not seen very often, but is a certain sign of talent. Hopefully Saul Stokes will continue down the path laid out by "Washed in Mercury", because it certainly is a stellar piece of work for a debut album."
"...a very rhythmic and melodic album, full of dynamics and uplifting sounds, I was impressed with its original style, due to the fact that Saul Stokes is the creator of all his electronic instuments, and has obviously designed them to give way for his own unique touch. The lack of slow drifting ambience, everso present in all other Hypnos releases, therefore cannot be considered as a drawback, but should be viewed upon differently, in light of the specific Stokes auditory expression."
-- Vladimir Jovanovic, Inner Space Radio, Zagreb, Croatia
"Minimalism isn't just for classical composers: Stokes leans toward techno with his rich electronic beats and slowly drifting synth pads, but there's less happening than in the most mesmerizing dance mix, and there's not enough reverb to call it ambient. Something is always changing -- an explosion in the distance, a high overtone that drifts in and out, a noodled melody starting (and then repeating) -- but the excitement level never builds past a comfortable mezzo-forte. The gargled timbres in several tunes may have been deliberately pitch-shifted too far. Few samples, no detectable acoustic instruments, just a carload of throbbing drone tones and intermittent beatbox."
--KEYBOARD MAGAZINE / Jim Aiken, Senior Editor
"A great journey has come full circle with Saul Stokes' debut experimentation WASHED IN MERCURY. His independent magic of spiraling uncanny synths is not only pleasing to the ear, but to the mind itself. A uniquely developed piece, Stokes has ventured into the realm of the uncharted with his imagination as the only true guide. The tracks average roughly nine minutes, as if developed to tell a tale of Stokes' wondrous journeys to the netherworld. In concept, the style is succinct and from a divine mind at work. Tracks like "Kasei" and "Deep in the Grass" stand high above the clouds as sounds crescendo in among the mountain tops, filtering through the hill and dales to the base of the valley, where our imaginations only begin to suspect what really lies 'out there.' "
--DIGITAL ARTIFACT magazine
"Normally, you would think a mix of "Throne of Drone" like ambience and sublime funk, tinged with eastern rhythms, would be a recipe for disaster...
Centered around Saul's home built analogue synth and sequencer, the sound of "Washed in Mercury" is at times retro-70's (not entirely a bad thing in my books...) and yet there is much here which is very fresh. There's no rigid structure to the tracks. Instead they are very organic. You feel they've been given time to grow, to develop.
On the more melodic tracks there is no real melody. Instead, short musical motifs which intertwine, mingle and compliment each other. The truly ambient tracks hypnotise with synthetic sounds that remind you of more natural sights and sounds; wind through telegraph lines, half heard converations, the shimmer of a heat haze.
And, apart from hi-hat and triangle, there's no standard percussion either. Instead eastern drum sounds are mixed with electronic effects spread across the whole of the stereo spectrum. In fact Saul uses the whole spectrum to very good effect. Sounds are allowed to move around, fade in and fade out, their envelopes expand and contract. Listen with headphones and your soon lost in the variety of sonics you can hear on what is a very cohesive album.
The stand out tracks for me have to be "The Tunnel Twins", where vibrant images of India's ceremonial dancers, story telling with their hands and feet, sway to a new sound with a new/old rhythm. Followed by the darker ambience of "Clearing", a wall of evolving sound, balanced by "Kasei" with it's long, space-music like, intro and mellow, upbeat drums fading in, then out. Then just when you think it's all over an infectious, funky ensemble of sounds, motifs and percussion appears which you just can't help moving some part of your body too.
Mind you, they only stand a nose above the others as, this album really is electronic music at it's best. How do I really know? Well, it's 62 minutes long and I've just pressed replay for the third time tonight! "
--Neal Leacy, Wind and Wire Magazine
"This is pulse-driven synthetic music with quite an aggressive feel in parts. Track 1, We Found It At Io, reminds me of early Tangerine Dream. In fact the bass speakers in my Epos had not had such a good workout in a long time. The music is industrial at times, and I kept thinking back to the music I was listening to late 70's and early 80's when I first started getting into electronic music.
Stokes allows his pieces to develop, so consequently most of the tracks tend to be fairly length and somewhat dark and moody and atmospheric in content.
It's nice to hear some percussion when it finally comes in, even something as simple as a triangle. There is a distinct sense of dub on a track like The Tunnel Twins and in general a big sound is conveyed here.
Zona is pulsating and industrial in feel. Slashes of sound cut in. This is exciting stuff and something I would like to hear more of. There are possibilities here which could be explored. Within this there are also ambient moments happening, especially in the background. I kept thinking of the work of Tomita while I was listening to this. Very nice indeed. The piece becomes almost still like in essence, a quality I appreciate immensely in the music I listen to. Yes, I now, people like Steve Roach have been doing this for years, but I still like hearing it when I do.
Kasei is pure atmospherics and ends up going back to an industrial beat and in the process takes you for an exciting ride. It's pretty infectious stuff and a killer of a track. Love it.
Clearing has a drone-like quality about it and for some reason it ceases abruptly and takes you into the next track, Sweet Paraffin, which is totally out of character with the rest of the pieces on this release but still a very interesting and positive way to finish the CD. I ended up playing this inditially about ten times in a row. It's infectious and demands to be listened to.
I kept thinking that I would like to see Saul Stokes playing live. This sort of material lends itself to live performances. It's overall a very exciting release and it will be intersting to see what he does for future releases, in terms of where he is heading. One to keep an eye out for."
--Hans Stoeve, host of Powerspot on 2RES, FM 89.7, NSW Australia
"...the cream of new music that WARP records was pushing on their first Artificial Intelligence series. Fresh, vibrant atmospheric electronic music created to stimulate and not comatize the listener."
--Gregory Kyryluk / Alpha Wave Movement
"Track 1: Subdued, rhythmic stripped-down instrumental in a kind of Kraftwerk/La Dusseldorf vein only slower. Track 2: Cosmic, drifting and very far out. Track 3: Slow synth rhythms, warped, undulating electronic drum rhythms that stutter and crash from speaker to speaker, becoming a more symphonic, bizarre meeting of analogue and slow-motion techno. Track 4: Ethereal and occasional low-end bass sequencers/synth rhythms. Track 5: In Steve Roach territory with ethnic drums and drifting synths going more for mood and feel than pace or melody -- twelve minutes of subdued mood music that gradually becomes more upfront and rhythmic -- and excellent track. Track 6: Richly textured celestial string-like synth layers, drifting and echoing with bass undercurrent that hints of rhythm. Track 7: Slow, undulating electronic drums/synth rhythms and synth top layer effects."
--CD Services newsletter (Scotland)
"A well crafted blend of beaty/beatless ambient. Deep in the Grass is the fave track here. Beatless ambient where any melodic activity is buried far below. Around the 2:30 mark, a frantic synth starts jittering away, but still overlaid with drones.
I could go for a whole disc like that but most of the other tracks follow the example of We Found It At Io. This track starts out ambient, but before long a crafty groove begins to percolate while a synth undilates in the background and an organ-like patch noodles and grooves.
All the tracks seem to be static but reveal gradual development. For folks who like a beat (not a heavy beat) with their ambient."
--David Beardsley, Juxtaposition Ezine