For all intents and purposes, Harmony Rockets was really the New York-based avant-pop unit Mercury Rev in disguise; it comprised the same core players — primarily singer/guitarist Jonathan Donahue and lead guitarist Sean "Grasshopper" Mackowiak — who sought a more psychedelic approach to music making. The side project allowed the group to pursue their most arcane musical ideas to the fullest by experimenting with all manner of sound from ambient to industrial to deconstructed noise; theirs was a complete immersion into and exploration of space, noise, and melodic chaos. The first Harmony Rockets release, 1995's Paralyzed Mind of the Archangel Void, was issued between Mercury Rev's See You on the Other Side (also 1995) and 1998's Deserter's Songs. It was a single, 42-minute ambient noise piece, an audio portrait of the group at their most defiantly experimental; the follow-up, 1997's Golden Ticket EP, moved in the opposite direction to offer a disco cover of a song from the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse) as well as their own version of Vangelis Pappathanisou's "L'Apocalypse Des Animaux."
Given Mercury Rev's success with Deserter's Songs, Harmony Rockets laid dormant for 15 years, rarely getting together to experiment. In 2012, Harmony Rockets re-assembled for tours of Western Europe and the United States. Two album-length improvisations from Oslo and New York City emerged as digital files on Excelsior Productions: Angels Are Spirits, Flames of Fire and The Crawling Journey of the Serpents Starry Night. In 2018, Harmony Rockets collaborated with fellow Woodstock resident and acoustic guitar legend Peter Walker, as well as a group of friends including Nels Cline (Wilco), Steve Shelley (ex-Sonic Youth), and bassist/luthier Martin Keith. They recorded three extended improvisations issued by Tompkins Square as the album Lachesis/Clotho/Atropos and co-billed to the band and Walker. ~ Jason Ankeny