Mercury Rev is winding down a busy 2006 with two new releases. First up is "The Essential Mercury Rev -- Stillness Breathes 1991-2006," a 32-track, two-disc set blending cuts from the band's first six

Mercury Rev is winding down a busy 2006 with two new releases. First up is "The Essential Mercury Rev -- Stillness Breathes 1991-2006," a 32-track, two-disc set blending cuts from the band's first six studio albums with hard-to-find oddities. The set arrived in October internationally via V2 and is available in North America only from the band's Web site.

"The first disc has some of our favorites. It's a good sampler, like a box of candy. We took all the maple creams out, the ones people pinch," drummer Jeff Mercel tells Billboard.com. "The second disc is a collection of B-sides, rarities and few unreleased tracks -- things that never saw the light of day, or were released in a very scarce manner. There's a James Brown cover ["It's a Man's Man's Man's World"] that was done for a tribute, which is a very unusual sounding track."

The band has also just unveiled its soundtrack for the French film "Bye Bye Blackbird," which can be purchased under the moniker "Hello Blackbird" from MercuryRev.com. Mercury Rev was approached by director Robinson Savary to contribute to the movie in 2001, but it took several years before the project got off the ground.

"He proposed an idea for a film about a circus in the early 1900s that was traveling through Europe," Mercel says. "Circuses were on the decline, as new forms like cinema were on the rise. A strange romance evolves as well."

"There is a little bit of vocals, but by and large, 95% of it is instrumental," he continues. "It doesn't always have the standard song form. Mostly, we tried to create an alternate reality for the film. The imagery is so obviously tied to the circus, but we thought the music should maybe be a bit more inside the mind of the characters."

Mercel reports Mercury Rev is in the early stages of writing for the follow-up to 2005's "The Secret Migration," which will be produced by longtime collaborator Dave Fridmann.

"Right now, it's still those little sparks," he says. "You get a little idea of what's to come, but we haven't really pushed anything much further than that. We're collecting a lot of small ideas. But we'll definitely be working with Dave. In some capacity, we're always involved with him. The relationship has changed now that we have our own functional studio, so some of the roles sort of cross. But it's still a very collaborative effort."

Mercury Rev will close out its 2006 performance slate with shows tomorrow (Nov. 30) in New York and Saturday in Buffalo, N.Y.