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)
"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 /
"Top 50 of 1997."
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
--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."
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
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
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.
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."
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
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