The fact is that there are not so many progressive rock bands on the current scene that actually understand the term progressive, and that offer music that is colourful and inventive. Portland based The Mercury Tree have been around for eight years and so far they produced three records. Their latest is titled “Countenance.” Long story short, this album is a masterpiece.
But there is much more happening on this 9-track monster than that. Complex arrangements and accessible atmosphere is what adorns the recording throughout its playtime. If their previous album “Freeze in Phantom Form” hinted a balance between eccentricity and straightforwardness, “Countenance” now has a fully take on this approach.
King Crimson’s touch in The Mercury Tree music was present since the band’s beginnings, but Portlanders’ blend of jazz and prog manages to feel new and relevant while capturing the qualities of ‘70s influences. There is a quintessential feeling of retro on “Countenance,” yet the record has a modern day polish making it sound like a pleasant attempt to recapture a classic era for a new generation.
“Pitchless Tone” and “Vestigial” ultimately set a scene for an element of distinctiveness, as Ben Spees and Connor Reilly pave the way with counterpointed guitar work and somewhat hypnotic rhythms, respectively.
That The Mercury Tree soar above their contemporaries is probably the most appropriately shown on the album’s longest piece “Otoliths.” On its almost 11 minutes, the song comes long way from an alternative rock piece to a classic prog rock hitter while crossing over the experimental tag.
A wisely named instrumental “Mazz Jathy” explores on the jazz fusion rhythmics, while “To Serve Man” sets the pace towards more a-la The Mars Volta mode. A share of psychedelia exists in the shape of “The Ellsberg Cycle.” The album closes with “Jazz Hands of Doom,” another title where the band gives a hint of what’s going on in there.
If you are looking for a recording that comes close to Kayo Dot’s “Coffins on Io” as the most experimental album released in 2014, look no further. The Mercury Tree has advanced to the point where all the potential and skills are masterfully used and put onto an album. Bravo!
The Mercury Tree’s “Countenance” is out now. But it directly from the band from Bandcamp.
1. Pitchless Tone 05:27
2. Vestigial 05:30
3. Otoliths 10:55
4. Mazz Jathy 06:47
5. To Serve Man 05:28
6. The Ellsberg Cycle 05:12
7. False Meaning 04:29
8. Artifracture 04:05
9. Jazz Hands of Doom 06:04
10. Rappel 03:26
Ben Spees – guitar, keyboard, vocals
Connor Reilly – drums
Oliver Campbell – bass (1, 2, 6, 8, 10), vocals
Aaron Clark – fretless bass (3, 4, 5, 7, 9), vocals