Old School Prog Rock Through the Lens of Latter Day Dissonance

Mercury Falls exists in the endless space between dreaming and awareness, light and dark, thought and expression. The  band’s music moves in countless directions at the same time, but without confusion or cacophony. It’s quiet, but not ambient, it’s free, but not formless.  As Mercury Falls pull you deeper into their own singular world, musical phrases rise and fall and spin together without any obvious logic or resolution, inviting you to open your mind and drift into a  comforting space where sound is the only reality.

Mercury Falls is Patrick Cress, sax and composition; Ryan Francesconi, guitar, composition and electronics; Eric Perney, upright bass and drummer Tim Bulkley. The quartet brings years of experience in jazz, folk, pop, experimental, electronic and world music to Quadrangle, an album with seven interconnected tracks that flow together like a suite. The music can suggest West Coast cool jazz, the sounds of a tropical forest, experiential indie rock and the dark, creaky rhythms of a passing carnival, but doesn’t really sound like anything you’ve heard before.

Patrick Cress has recorded with and played with an eclectic array of notable musicians and artists over the years including the String Cheese Incident, Joanna Newsom, John Clayton, Lee Presson and the Nails, Nancy Ostrovsky, Scott Amendola, Joe Bagale, Boostamonte, Disappear Incompletely, Seth Augustus, John Shifflet, Michelle Amador, Tim Bulkley, and Aaron Novik. He has also lead or co-directed many ensembles in the Bay Area since 2002, including Telepathy, Ah LaRocca, Bulkleycress, Blicker, Acá, Mercury Falls, Octagon, and the Reset Quintet.

Cress has been the recipient of the American Composers Forum, SF Bay Area Chapter, Subito program three times since 2005.   He was awarded the grant in 2005 for the Octagon project, and in 2009 for his solo work, ‘Yosemite Soundscapes, the View From Above.’

The Members of Mercury Falls:

Ryan Francesconi :: Guitar and Electronics

Born in 1974, Ryan Francesconi later grew up in the forests of far Northern California. After a childhood dominated by guitar solos, bad haircuts and foggy coasts, Ryan attended California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, earning degrees in Guitar, Composition and Electronic Music. In addition to formal music studies with guitarist Miroslav Tadic and composers David Rosenboom and Lucky Mosko, Ryan studied programming with Soundhack creator, Tom Erbe, and developed the software, Spongefork, which became a widely used tool for creative sound manipulation. Through the music of Bela Bartok and Tadic’s introduction to Macedonian folk music, Ryan discovered his love for the Balkans’ folk music, which formed the center of his life for the next ten years. He traveled to Bulgaria and Greece in search of the tambura, kaval and bouzouki and brought back instruments and inspiration for new music. His groups, The Toids and Trio Mopmu, were formed, later releasing three albums of Eastern European inflected compositions.

After returning to San Francisco in 2000, Ryan began recording in other styles, releasing three albums of ambient manipulated acoustic music under the RF moniker as well as a variety of compilations and collaborations. Using his programming skills to his advantage, RF applied subtle electronic coloring to field recordings, vocals and classical instrumentation to create a rich personal sound world. During this time, he was often associated with electronic musicians, yet Ryan still remained most at home with acoustic composition.

While teaching a summer workshop in Bulgarian music, Ryan met California harpist and singer Joanna Newsom, and the two began working together. Joanna asked Ryan to help convert the orchestral parts of her upcoming release, “Ys,” into something that could be toured as a band. Condensing the original Van Dyke Parks scores to a few instruments required a few weeks of frantic scribbling on staff paper after which they toured constantly for the next year and recorded the Ys Street Band EP. Later, Ryan reworked the original full scores again for the live orchestral renditions of “Ys” in the US, Europe and Australia and recently conducted the Chicago Symphony performance.

Loving the northern air, Ryan lives in Seattle. His latest project is working on an acoustic guitar and vocals album, which might be described as if the English Nick Drake was in fact Bulgarian.

Eric Perney :: bass

Eric studied classical and jazz bass at the University of Michigan with Stuart Sankey and Rodney Whitaker. His musical vision has also been influenced by his work with Peter Kowald, Steve Reinfranck, Joelle Leandre, Steve Rush, Fred Frith, and Tom Waits. Eric is a founding member of the bands Transmission and Gojogo.  Recently, he performed a series of concerts with the vocal ensemble Kitka with Dan Cantrell, and frequently plays with local artists of varying styles.  Eric also performs within the modern dance scene in San Francisco.  Recent projects include performing at San Francisco City Hall for the “Art for the Environment” global exhibition and a close collaboration with new dance company “Project Agora”.  He can be heard on many recorded works, notably on Tom Waits’ “Alice”, “Orphans” and the soundtracks to “Shrek 2″, “La Tigre e la Neve”, and Dan Cantrell’s “Divided Loyalties”.

Tim Bulkley :: drums

Tim Bulkley has built his musical career on his intuitive musicianship, supportive flexibiliy & broad awareness of texture & color.  Starting on the violin, piano and voice as a kid & eventually moving to the drumset, Tim has been playing music almost his entire life.  Tim has recorded extensively & toured internationally with a wide variety of projects including The Invisible Cities, Michelle Amador, Boz Scaggs, Stanley Jordan, Dayna Stephens, Patrick Cress’ Telepathy, Anton Schwartz, Wil Blades and Anima Anonima. A native of the Bay Area, Tim currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Patrick Cress :: Saxophones

Graduating with a bachelor’s in music at the University of Michigan in 1998, Patrick Cress was schooled by Donald Walden’s strict jazz theory and Donald Sinta’s brilliant musical mind.   It was there that he conceived the concept for Telepathy (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, upright, drums), his brainchild, after heavy influences of Ornette Coleman and Tim Berne.  Founded in March 2002, Telepathy has recorded three albums, as well as performed both nationally and internationally. The group features some of the Bay Area’s finest musicians and has played for diverse audiences at San Francisco’s ODC Theater, Oakland’s Café Van Kleef, Berkeley’s Zipper Festival, L.A.’s the Mint, Santa Monica’s Temple Bar, Portland’s Mt. Tabor Theater, and Vancouver’s Sugar Refinery.

Cress has performed and composed with dance for over a decade.  He started by forming his own music and dance improvisation company, the Pax Ensemble, at the University of Michigan in 1998.  Since then, he has been music director for Dandelion Dancetheater’s Undressed Phase II and Octagon. In those experiences, and other cameos including Kunst-Stoff, Kara Davis’ Improv. Jam, and with Ledoh’s Salt Farm, Cress has performed or created scores to accompany a wide variety of choreography.

Using live loops and effects and two-decades of acoustic alto and baritone saxophone experience, Cress has performed in numerous electronic incarnations.  He has performed solo since July ’05 focusing on simple, popular melodies (by composers such as Mussorgsky, Ornette Coleman, Sleepy Time Gorrilla Museum,  Radiohead) and expands them in his own voice.  In addition, Cress helps lead the Acá trio, an orignial ambient, experimental ensemble.  He has also performed with Bulkleycress, an electro-acoustic duo that combines two intuitive improvisers who have worked together since March 2002.

Cress has played with an eclectic array of notable musicians and artists over the years including the String Cheese Incident, John Clayton, Nancy Ostrovsky, Scott Amendola, Boostamonte, Disappear Incompletely, John Shifflet, Tim Bulkley, and Aaron Novik. He has also lead or co-directed many ensembles in the Bay Area since 2002, including Telepathy, Ah LaRocca, Bulkleycress, Blicker, Acá, and Mercury Falls.


Cress’ compositions will appear on three 2008-09 recordings.  Telepathy will release their fourth album of all new, original material recorded live at three different venues.  Ryan Francesconi and Patrick Cress will release a debut record called Mercury Falls, combining the ambient/pop sounds of RF with the jazz/indie rock music of Patrick Cress. Blicker, an Indie rock/experimental project, is set to release their first album this Winter.