The Mercury Program - S/T
Boxcar Records

The first few times I heard this band I had them pegged as a Hoover/June
of 44 kind of mixed-breed. With this, their debut full-length, they have
dispelled all of my previous thoughts about them. 

When I got the press release for this, they threw out Tortoise as a similar sounding band. At first I thought this absurd, but I can totally hear it now. This band takes the foundations of the June of 44 school and expands on it many times over adding vibes, bells, and removing any standard sort of vocal work. The only voice you hear on this record moves in and out of a few songs in spoken word fashion. It's like they're almost commenting on the music that's being played. Sort of a running dialogue to the listener there to make sure they're paying close attention to the jazzy, "math-y" throw-down that's taking place. It's easy to get lost in the repeating rhythms and the soft (and amazing) drum work. These guys are painting soundscapes and making sure that our untrained ear can recognize them.
And that's my only problem. I have the same feelings about half of June of 44's stuff and most all of Tortoise's. What I'm saying here is, do I really get this stuff? I mean, this is incredibly complex music here. On one level it's very enjoyable to listen to, but on the other I can't help but feel that I'm totally missing something. These guys are such incredible musicians making music that is near maze-like. It's quirky, confusing, and most certainly over the head of someone like me. That's not to say I can't enjoy it on my own, though. I really like this CD, for they have made the seemingly impossible possible.
The Mercury Program have made an album that is entirely unlistenable and listenable at the exact same time! That in itself would be good enough for me, it's just a bonus that there are some parts that are downright incredible and intense too. I'm happy. Buy this if you're looking for something a bit more challenging than your Braid records and less-so than your Skin Graft ones. Recommended.
...david smith...

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