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Black Carl and Mergence Trade Mill Ave for The Mill

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It's sort of an unconscious flexing of put-upon Phoenix's advantages as a music town; few other cities, for all their vaunted scenes and talent hotbeds, can casually schedule an outdoor show in the middle of November. What's more important is that, having done that, Phoenix can also produce bands as interesting as Mergence and Black Carl.

Those Vibrant Young People Are Dead, Mergence's 2011 debut, gave a strikingly thorough account of the band's ingredients--Adam Bruce's classic-rock howl, the oscillating waver of

Yod Paul's guitar, the light hold they leave on tempo and dynamics.

At the time Bruce told us that their follow-up would have to be "an American record," something that could support a broader tour and broader ambitions. What's been so interesting about the first few songs to escape from Songs for Humans, that still-in-progress follow-up, is just how strange their conception of an American record must be.

"White Bark" and "The Nerve," both accompanied by disorienting videos, are dispatches from a band getting weirder. The shifting tempos of the first record have collided in the second; while the jittery guitar riffs and drum sounds of "White Bark" eventually coalesce, as if by magic or accident, into a concise chorus, "The Nerve" sets them free all at once to pursue their own, droning interests.

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Dan Moore