Carey Mercer is typically a guy that wants to make a powerful song and wants you to know that it’s powerful. Last year he put out one of the most surprisingly heavy records as Blackout Beach, bluntly titled Fuck Death, a piece of wonder overlooked by the masses thanks to its unfortunately late-in-the-year release. It took him around a few years to make that glorious war message, but with 11 Pink Helicopters in the Coral Sky he spared composition and production to only a matter of months, and understandably so. Both of his most recent records are worlds apart in what they’re meant to accomplish. While Fuck Death is a huge musical experience in terms of scope and sound, 11 Pink Helicopters in the Coral Sky shares an intimate look into what drives Carey Mercer as an experimental artist in a concise, conservative bunch of songs. The new record feels almost like a making-of to Fuck Death and an organized mess of scattered musical ambitions and ideas from the heart of Blackout Beach.
Carey Mercer has noticeably been taking synthesizers to places unseen by rock-based projects, combining minimalist guitar patterns with bloops that seem to echo through the foundations of space. This happens at points on 11 Pink Helicopters, but the previously heard grandiosity of Blackout Beach is toned down to provide for a mellow experience, more fit to soundtrack a science-fiction short-film. This notion is where this album sits as a more experimental Blackout Beach release. Actually, everything surrounding it seems experimental. 11 Pink Helicopters in the Coral Sky is a 20 minute instrumental album found solely on the Blackout Beach Bandcamp page as a pay-what-you-want download. At that point, you must consider what this album is and who it is for, which is someone who has followed Blackout Beach or Frog Eyes or enjoyed listening to Fuck Death. I would have a hard time recommending 11 Pink Helicopters in the Coral Sky to a friend who just got into Sunset Rubdown or Women.
Carey Mercer drifts away from his usual prerogative on here; the character is slow and hypnotic, but he stops you to a halt after each track and throws you into another direction, further repeating the cycle. This can equally act as a refreshing yet jarring turn, such as the transition between “Trumpet of Taste Ambassador” and “Mt Harsh,” or simply disappoint listeners wanting elaboration or fulfillment. The record is also absent of any true vocal performance of his, which is what I find to be one of the most appealing strengths of Blackout Beach. In concept, it’s as if Dan Bejar decided to stop singing as Destroyer, but Mercer’s dreamy sound on 11 Pink Helicopters in the Coral Sky rarely expresses the need for words.
Since 11 Pink Helicopters is so experimental and consistent, there are no true standout songs, only standout sounds. My minor highlights were the science-fiction enveloped “Maj Floyd and the Presets” and the psychedelic dream-poppy “Sign of Harry,” but the honest truth about the album is that it feels more like an epilogue to Fuck Death; one epic song to complete the rest of that idea. It’s a fine effort and great companion piece to the majority of Carey Mercer’s projects, but there is little for newcomers to love in the simple context of 11 Pink Helicopters in the Coral Sky.