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The Mercury Tree - Permutations CD (album) cover

PERMUTATIONS

The Mercury Tree

 

Heavy Prog

3.90 | 109 ratings

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JohnNicholson
5 stars The Mercury Tree, the Portland, Oregon, math rock trio of Ben Spees (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Connor Reilly (drums), and Oliver Campbell (bass), returned in March with its fourth studio album Permutations. The latest album follows upon the magnificence of Countenance, which came out in September 2014, with an even more massive wall-of-sound.

Call it noise-rock suspended and then smashed in the atmosphere, or dream-rock propelled off a cliff and hitting the ground, the sonics The Mercury Tree crafts crams the headspace with agitated unrest and strung out rapture, amply displaying the raging and fervent fire that exists at the heart of the beast known as The Mercury Tree.

Album-starter 'Symptoms' is actually one of The Mercury Tree's best tunes, running on restless drum rhythms, an ominous bass line thrum, majorly warped guitar lines, and hazy, androgynous-sounding vocals. The powerful guitars fire on all cylinders, swerving off the road, then realigning themselves before picking up the pace and skidding around the bend. A noisy conflagration of sound hits the middle and end sections of the song with abrasive and more delicate notes colliding and spinning out of control.

Next number 'Exhume the Worst' is immersed in lurching guitar burn and a ponderous drum beat and is a test to the less intrepid eardrum.'Spees hovers sweetly and lightly over the noise, leavening the harshness with his pleasantly mild vocal tones.''Permutations' revels in its staticky, fuzzed-up ambience that's cut with loops of warped, tape recorder-like sounds.'It is one of the centrepieces of the album which easily showcases the band's trajectory on their way of progress. 'Ether/Ore' comes on like an experimental barrage of serrated guitar jags and a dynamically propulsive drum beat.'Spees' vocals rise from the deep, and are still indecipherable.'The song's spine, with its recognizable verses, is pop in construct while the chorus arrangements slay with blazing guitar pyrotechnics and effects.'The song features guest appearance from saxophonist Tony Mowe, who adds another dimension. Its claustrophobic ending makes it sound quite a blast!

This burns out into the smoldering embers of comedown 'Placeholder' with the drawn out piano section fading away amid the brighter sparkle of slowly chiming guitar-bass interaction.'It's a delightful respite from the aggressive fury that preceded it.'This lull turns into the full-on narcotic sway of another style-changer 'Unintelligible.''Spees pulls out his gently soporific vocals amid the twiddle of gleaming drum beats and delectably woozy guitar grind.'But this beginning is a deceit because mid-way through, the sonics amp up in intensity with the rhythmic churning of bending guitar distortion and a more kinetic drum beat.' By the end of the song, the guitars and drums are voraciously consumed by an all-encompassing devolution of immolating noise.

'Sympathesizer' is probably the most catchiest song on the album. It varies in speed ranging from an almost drone to a more fast- paced prog piece. Tony Mowe once again provides his saxwork, but this song also features the former member Aaron Clark who does some guitar work.

The remaining three songs wrap around 25 minutes of music which goes from Porcupine Tree-inspired 'Seek and Release,' to a well- control and balanced 'mess' on one of my favourites 'Prometheist.' The closing epic 'Deep Five' just confirms the prior allegations that 'Permutations' is the band's most progressive record out to date. It was hell of a task to beat 'Countenance,' but they did it. And they did it with style.

JohnNicholson | 5/5 |

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